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  • Intolerable Acts and Tea Parties

    In 1774, in response to the first Tea Party, the British Parliament issued a series of acts designed to control the colonists, stop their protests and restrict their liberty. The American colonists called them “The Intolerable Acts.”

    What we have all just witnessed in the debate over health care reform, in substance and in process violates our first principles, takes away our independence and undermines the very rule of law. If left standing, this law places us evermore firmly on the course of becoming a heavily centralized European-style nation, stifled by government run health care and ruled more by bureaucrats than elected legislatures. This is not “progress” but the revival of a failed, undemocratic, and illiberal form of statism.

    These acts are intolerable.

    In 1763, with the British victory over France in the Seven Years’ War (which began in North America as the French and Indian War), Great Britain controlled—in addition to the thirteen American colonies— New France (Canada), Spanish Florida, and all the lands east of the Mississippi River. It also had massive debts, incurred in large part in the defense of that empire, and so the English Parliament looked for the first time to the American colonies as a source of revenue.

    The American Revenue Act (sometimes called the Sugar Act) expanded various import and export duties and created additional courts and collection mechanisms to strictly enforce trade laws. Then parliament went a step further and passed the first direct tax levied on America, requiring all newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, and official documents—even decks of playing cards!—to have stamps (hence it was called the Stamp Act, which was passed 245 years ago today, March 22nd) to show payment of taxes.

    The colonists—who by this point were very used to their independence and Britain’s benign oversight of their affairs—were none too pleased with the new imperial policies. Colonial merchants instinctively began a movement to boycott British goods, and a new group called the Sons of Liberty was formed to foment and organize opposition. Several legislatures called for united action, and nine colonies sent delegates to a Stamp Act Congress in New York in October 1765.

    The American Revolution began as a tax revolt. But it is important to understand from the start that the debate was never really over the amount of taxation (the taxes were actually quite low) but the process by which the British government imposed and enforced these taxes. As loyal colonists, the Americans had long recognized parliament’s authority to legislate for the empire generally, as with colonial trade, but they had always maintained that the power to tax was a legislative power reserved to their own assemblies rather than a distant legislature in London. You’ll remember their slogan: no taxation without representation.

    In making this argument, the colonials were objecting to being deprived of an important historic right: The English Bill of Rights of 1689 had forbidden the imposition of taxes without legislative consent, and since the colonists had no representation in parliament they complained that the taxes violated their traditional rights.

    The British ended up repealing the tax, but in the Declaratory Act of 1766 they flatly rejected the Americans’ general argument by asserting that parliament was absolutely sovereign and retained full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” To the British, “no taxation without representation” was indeed a well-established right, but it was understood to mean no taxation without the approval of the British Parliament. And, they argued, it never literally meant—not for the Americans and not even for the overwhelming majority of British citizens—representation in that body. The colonists, like all British subjects, enjoyed “virtual representation” of their interests by the aristocrats that voted in and controlled parliament.

    To the Americans, this was as absurd as it was unacceptable. Their commonsense notion of consent required actual representation—elected representatives of the governed making laws. So the declaration of the Stamp Act Congress—the first statement of the united colonies—argues that because the colonists were “entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain,” no taxes could be imposed without colonial consent. And since as a practical matter they couldn’t participate in a parliament thousands of miles away, the Americans concluded that this authority could only be vested in their local legislatures.

    In 1767, the British government passed a new series of revenue measures (called the Townshend Acts) which placed import duties (external taxes) on a number of essential goods including paper, glass, lead, and tea—and once again affirmed the power of British courts to issue undefined and open-ended search warrants (called “writs of assistance”) to enforce the law. Asserting that the sole right of taxation was with the colonial legislature, Virginia proposed a formal agreement among the colonies banning the importation of British goods—a practice that quickly spread to the other local legislatures and cut the colonial import of British goods in half. So parliament eventually repealed those duties, too, except—in order to maintain the principle that it could impose any taxes it wished—for the tax on tea.

    It was at Boston in the spring of 1770 that, tensions running high, British soldiers fired on a large crowd of protesters, wounding eleven colonials and killing five. The Boston Massacre, as it was quickly called, marked the final downturn in the relationship between Britain and the American colonies. By late 1772, Samuel Adams and others were creating new Committees of Correspondence that would link together patriot groups in all thirteen colonies and eventually provide the framework for a new government. They would soon form Committees of Safety as well to oversee the local militias and the volunteers who had begun calling themselves Minutemen.

    In December 1773, a group of colonists disguised as Indians boarded ships of several British merchants and in protest of British colonial policies dumped overboard an estimated £10,000 worth of tea in Boston Harbor. “The die is cast,” reported John Adams. “The people have passed the river and cut away the bridge. Last night three cargoes of tea were emptied into the harbor. This is the grandest event which has ever yet happened since the controversy with Britain opened.”

    The British government responded harshly by punishing Massachusetts— closing Boston Harbor, virtually dissolving the Massachusetts Charter, taking control of colonial courts and restricting town meetings, and allowing British troops to be quartered in any home or private building. Richard Henry Lee wrote that these laws were “a most wicked system for destroying the liberty of America.” The American colonists, outraged by these violations of their first principles, their basic rights and the rule of law itself, called them what they were: Intolerable Acts.

    In response to these acts, the various Committees of Correspondence banded together and planned a congress of all the colonies to meet in Philadelphia in September 1774. This united resistance gave rise to the Declaration of Independence and, later, to the United States Constitution.

    Is it possible that Americans are waking up to the modern state’s long train of abuses and usurpations?

    There is something about a nation grounded on principles. Most of the time, American politics is about local issues and those policy questions that top the national agenda. But once in a while, politics is about voters stepping back and taking the longer view based on the fundamental principles of the regime.

    The opportunity and the challenge for those that seek to conserve America’s liberating principles is to turn the healthy public sentiment of the moment, which stands against the Left’s agenda of the unlimited state, into a settled and enduring political opinion about the nature and purpose of American constitutional government.
    Only with this sure foundation can we go forward as a nation, addressing the great policy questions before us and continuing to secure the blessings of liberty.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    36 Responses to Intolerable Acts and Tea Parties

    1. Barb Fears ATL, GA says:

      Great… now what do we do???? What is the plan, where do we meet?

    2. Howard, PA says:

      What a wonderful tie in to history. I can't wait to have my 13 and 11 year old children read this tonight.

    3. Erika Ward, Utah says:

      Wonderfully written and enlightening, thank you!

    4. M. Beltz says:

      Passing this healthcare lesislation by twising arms & bribery–How can this be legal? How is this constitutional? Are their any who are researching right now to see if this was all done according to the laws of our land?

    5. M. Beltz says:

      How could this passing of this healthcare legislation be legal when it was done with bribery & threats? Is it constitutional what they are getting ready to impose upon us? Do we have constitutional lawyers who are working on this now?

      Thank You

    6. Carol Koeppe, Missou says:

      I agree with Barb. What do we do now? How do we resist?

    7. Cheryl, Michigan says:

      This is why elections have consequences: taxation without representation was a valid reason for the events that followed; what is the appropriate response when there was putative representation that directly violated the will of the majority?

    8. Ben, TX says:

      Thanks for this great article reminding us of the lessons of history. WE MUST NOT LET THIS STAND!

    9. Randy, Houston, TX says:

      Patrick Henry and William Wallace come to mind as a rallying point relative to our current situation.

    10. Kharmin, On the 'Net says:

      Excellent, educational and very well written. Many thanks for posting it.

    11. Louise, PA says:

      I agree, this is a great history lesson if you have never learned any of this in grammar school. But, You are kidding yourselves if you believe these tea party people know anything about the history that you have written about here. Their anger and aggression is about racism, and disappointment that they have lost the power that their party had for the last long 8 years. This president was elected by an majority of the vote, and he is carrying out the agenda that the Americans who voted him into office have asked him to uphold. You just wait until we get to Immigration reform. You will have even more to scream about.

    12. Billie says:

      Here's an intolerable act from Nanny Pelosi, quoting the "DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, this will ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (paraphrase)

      Excuse me, Ms pelosi, this is for the people's independence not the government and hypocrites to dictate. Get it? THE PEOPLES DOCUMENT, along with the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION you AND YOUR LEADER, aren't qualified to understand.

      Thank you, Matt. Very well articulated.

    13. Pingback: Next Steps After Obamacare Passage « Annoy the Left

    14. Rob, Texas says:

      Call a Constitutional Convention to make socialized medicine unconstitutional. It takes only 34 states, and 38 are already on record as opposing Obamacare. While we're at it, we can repeal the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments.

    15. Nancy, IL says:

      All well said, but I agree with those who ask "but what can we do?" For example: what lawyers will volunteer to defend those who refuse to buy insurance or pay the fine, and so face jail time? Where can we get buttons or bumperstickers to say, "I'm not paying" — and more importantly, who will organize, say, a database to support citizens who will make that pledge, so we know we are not alone in a Kafka (or Obama) nightmare? Like the colonists under the thumb of an enemy government, we need a way, not just to hold rallies, but to visibly support each other's defiance.

    16. BOB MA. says:

      THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.-THOMAS PAINE

    17. Rick, Texas says:

      Wow, how sad. The news painted Joe Stack as crazy. In retrospect, he was vastly more sane than one can imagine. He was only one, acting alone, and stupidly in his desperation against an oppressive government. The population must rise up and be represented. I am truly concerned about the apathy and stupidity of the average American. We are giving this country away…to China, Mexico, Japan, etc. It is time for a new Constitutional Convention. http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/1

    18. Dr. Edward Kimble, C says:

      I just want to know if I will still need a passport to catch fish in Canada once I get my national ID card containing my health, government, and biometrics history? As a Republican, should I be trying to expunge my conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, my affiliation with the Republicans, or what? Can I hide my DNA or will descendants of the Thomas More family be automatically selected and labeled as disposable wankers?

    19. Amy, Texas says:

      Wonderful article. I will print it out and show it to my children.

      @Rob, Texas- I'm right there with you. Lets clean up the Constitution.

      Thank God for these articles. My family was feeling so alone and disheartened but now I feel invigorated and passionate again. There's a reason teams have a coach; to keep their morale alive even when the fight looks hopeless. For me, the articles I've read here today have helped me. But I need more. I want a date, a time, a place. I want to keep this revolution going. I want my country back, and I'm willing to fight for her. Tell me where to go so I can fight.

    20. Nancy Jones / Auburn says:

      I have been losing sleep over this legislation for weeks. Since Sunday I have been waking up even earlier and staying awake longer. I am ready to do whatever it takes to win back our Representative Republic. I am outraged, infuriated, scared, enraged, and I really don't know what to do. I am watching the demise of the American dream for my children and grandchildren and for myself. I cannot beleive there are people in this nation who are so ignorant that they think this is a good thing. If the Imperial Federal Government can giveth and taketh away it is NOT a God given right…unless of course you think Obama is the Messiah. We are living in dark times people. Dark times. What do we do?

    21. Thomas, Texas says:

      "In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress. "

      — John Adams

      Unfortunately, back room deals, arm twisting and other violations of civility and common decency have become the norm in congress. It is quite a disgusting act to watch how elected officials spend our money. When asked if they would be subject to the health care reform they simply ignore the question or say flatly "NO".

      The only way to change the way our federal government operates is to pass term limits. This will eliminate career politicians and would be in the best interest of the country. Our founding fathers were called to duty for a short period of time. they then returned to their farms. What a noble idea.

    22. Jill, California says:

      Impeach Obama. Impeach Congress.

    23. Gary B. Lee - Endico says:

      Q: What is the difference between the government and the mafia?

      A: You elect one. Problem is, its hard to tell which is which.

      Enough of double talk, lies, scheming, scams, and resistance to voter calls against profligate "representatives" who do not. Mandate all candidates' campaign funds come only from the district they intend to represent, limit campaign time to thirty days, and make them hold town meetings where they can get to know the people in their district. Then hold them liable to the higher standard that goes with the position they seek.

      Return to the Constitution. And make sure these people actually know and know what it means.

    24. Jens Christian Melga says:

      For those of you that ask" Where do we go from here?" Join a conservative movment, e mail, call, hand written letters to your rep's in D.C. We as conservatives must band together and stop this murder of our constitution. I feel there is strength in numbers

    25. James C. Biesinger - says:

      The only way to stop El Presidente Barack Hussen Obama is to have the 2011 Congress so conposed that it will have sufficient votes to bring Articles of Impeachment against him and his Vice El Presidente Joe Biden (as second in succession to El Presidente) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives – Nanci Pelosi – if she makes it through the election process this Fall (as third in succession to El Presidente). If President Clinton could have Articles of Impeachment brought against him telling lies about his "Not Having Sex With That Woman", then El Presedente is guilty of Treason and High Crimes and Misdomeaners. In order for this to happen, We The People must act and act now to create such a Congress capable of this act.

    26. Silvia Ramirez, Miam says:

      Let us all get our friends and families and ourselves out there in November and

      vote these communist low lifes out of the House and the Senate so that we can

      have Hussein impeached!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    27. Janet Palmer says:

      Very well written. We must make sure our children and grandchildren understand the history of this once great country. I feel like a close relative has died and we are in the grieving process. Going to be some very hard times in America before we get this turned around. God help us.

    28. Mike, Tennessee says:

      Today Wednesday March 25th, the news was filled with the reports of threats being made against Congressmen, with at least two reports of violence (a broken window and a gas line on a grill cut). In addition, a message reportedly left on Bart Stupak’s home answering machine was played by every news outlet as supporting evidence of the level of unrest. Although I find the Stupak recorded message, which all the news outlets (including Fox) lead you to believe was left by someone unhappy with his changing his vote to yes though the caller never said what side of the issue they were on and the date of the call is not provided. On Friday well before Stupak had decided to change his vote, there was a report that Stupak's wife had called him and expressed her concern over the number of calls and the threatening nature of the callers. He told her to unplug all the phones in the house. Now assuming she did as he suggested, any message that would have been recorded would have been before the vote and days before he changed his thus suggesting that the caller may very well have been a person who was upset with then stated position of being against the bill.. Yet this recorded message was assumed to have been left by someone who was upset with his yes vote.

      Many Congressional leaders including Republicans were quick to condemn the actions of these individuals. Steny Hoyer had the gall to say debate was the American way of deciding issues. This coming from one of the leaders in Congress who prohibited this American way of deciding issues from taking place on the health care issue. John Boehner made a statement saying that violence was not the American Way.

      While I am not currently suggesting that violence is the alternative that conditions now require, for I do not think things have reached that stage yet. Still for anyone to state, that citizens getting feed up with a government that is not representing their interest and in fact are ignoring them , are not acting in the American tradition must have skipped all their American history classes. Using violence as a means to change government or government policy is a very serious matter and should be taken lightly or used reckless, but our history American history is nothing if not about people throwing off the shackles of government. The powers that be will always try to represent any such acts as those being taken by a radical extremist in an effort to undermine and marginalize them.

      At this point while, I completely understand the anger that is present in large groups of the population there are still some limit opportunities and small hopes that this course can yet be corrected. But the question must be asked, if a law that passed the house using a clearly unconstitutional process and contains unconstitutional elements, is signed into law by the President (a former constitutional law professor) with his full knowledge of the unconstitutional process used and the unconstitutional elements, and now if a Supreme Court refuses to rule that the process used and elements contained in the law are in violation of constitution, what recourse is left to the people? At that point, should it come, elections are no longer a means by which the illegal acts of Congress and the President can be corrected.

      In fact if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the process and content of this law they will have de facto destroyed beyond repair what remains of our constitution. The result will be to effectively strike Art. 1 Sec 2 from the Constitution thus allowing the majority in congress to use any method to pass any law they wish. The Commerce clause of the constitution would be expanded to such an extent as to allow the federal government to mandate anything upon the people with no recourse.

      At what point are the people justified in rising up against tyranny. How many constitutional freedoms and rights are the people expected to allow a government to take from then before they are justified in rising up? How many new powers and controls are the people expected to allow a government to claim for itself before the people say No More? And if such a government is further assisted by the last defense provided to the people (the courts in general and the Supreme Court in particular) in allowing the illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the legislative and executive branches, what non violent options are left to the people?

      For anyone to suggest or say that use of violence to over throw such a government is never an option, might as well tear up the constitution right now and go ahead and submit to the statist. For in the end the only real power the people have is the power to rebel start over. Our form of government, is based on a Constitution limiting the powers of the government and granting all rights to the people and the states (except for those powers granted to the three branches by the constitution) can exist only so long as all the parties (the people, the people's representatives, the President and the courts) uphold their respects parts of the agreement and duties. The final authority and decision if a government is in fact abiding by the agreement and acting in the interest of the people, rest with the people.

      Thomas Jefferson surely foresaw the need for periodic revolutions by the people. He clearly understood both the nature of man and the nature of governments.

    29. Meredith, DC says:

      This Hillsdale grad would like to point out that likening the conditions of the colonists during the American Revolution to our current situation, whereby we are living under laws passed by our own democratically-elected legislators and president is intellectually dishonest. Additionally, the fact that many modern "tea partiers" are in fact protesting potential cuts to their government-run health care (Medicare) undermines their argument that such care is oppressive, undesirable, and "intolerable." Consistency, please.

      As far as questions of constitutionality, Heritage supported the Massachusetts mandate for insurance under Romney (search for articles by Stuart Butler or Robert Moffit on the Heritage site). How was it "reasonable" then, but oppressive now?

      @Mike, TN–in all seriousness, if citizens take up arms, who would they attack? American servicemen and women? Federal employees and agents, a la McVeigh? One option is seditious, the other terrorism. It is a dangerous delusion that such actions could be, in a representative democracy, considered in any way patriotic. We have other lawful options in which to address desired governmental changes.

    30. Aristine, Gainesville says:

      Thank you for this eloquent and thought provoking article. I was very worried that maybe the country had forgotten where we came from. There are no words to explain my disillusionment with our government, “for the people”, what a joke. My only hope is that enough people can rise up to correct this injustice. My heart goes out to our troops, fighting for freedom that we apparently no longer have. What a sad, sad time to be an American.

    31. Pingback: MoConservativePatriot.com » Intolerable Acts and Tea Parties

    32. hawk, pennsylvania says:

      I remember studying all this in history. I have no confidence that kids today are being taught how it was that our founders were motivated to declare independence from the very kind of people we have in power in Washington today.

      And we all know this didn't just start with Mr. Obama. Had he stuck with the "slow cooker" process that all lefties before him used since FDR, we would most likely never stopped this creeping socialism.

      On that note, putting Obama and his cronies in the White House, might be the best thing to happen to this nation since the original "Tea Party". No tyrant will withstand the wrath of true patriots!

    33. Pingback: Side Effects: Obamacare Raises Your Premiums — Let's Change America

    34. John Arizona says:

      Thanks HF for a great article. It's difficult to believe that the people of Nancy Pelosi's district continue to re-elect this woman, and worse yet, the Democrats in the House of Reps make her their leader.

      It was a typical Nancy Pelosi response to a question she either doesn't know the answer to, or can only say something to get rid of the questioner. How do we get rid of this disaster?

    35. Billie, Tulsa says:

      Very good summary. Thanks for the reliable information you all furnish. The Sons of Liberty would cheer on today's Tea Party movement with hearty "Hip, Hip,


    36. William says:

      Every 2 years we have the opportunity to rid ourselves of bad politicians, they however CANNOT be rid of We the People! All we have to do is to stick with this long enough, and we will win, plain and simple.

      Politicians will come and go, and some we will send on their way, but We the People are FOREVER.

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