Let Them Drink Tea!

Okay, so nobody ever said that at the Boston Tea Party. But you get the point.

It’s the Fourth of July here in the USA – our Independence Day – and I thought it was worth taking a moment to remember why we celebrate. That’s right. Cause it’s all about tax.

In the late 18th century, the Brits passed a series of acts (notably the Currency Act, the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts) that essentially imposed taxes on American colonists. The kicker was that the colonists had no say in the British government – you know, the old “taxation without representation” argument. And this made them angry.

The Americans started a series of small protests, none of which caught the attention of the British. And then a guy named John Hancock got a bright idea, to hit the Brits where it hurt the most: their tea. Now everybody knows how nuts the Brits are about their tea (I lived there for a year and developed a love for a good cup of tea myself). But it was really less about the love of tea and more about Hancock’s anger at the Tea Act, passed almost ten years after the Stamp Act. The Tea Act was basically a poorly disguised bid to save the East India Company, a British company. Under the Act, the East India Company was allowed to export tea to the colonies tax-free, which created a virtual monopoly on tea – who could compete?

Another series of small protests followed. And nothing.

So the colonists decided that they needed to take drastic action. In Philadelphia and New York, ships carrying tea were turned away from the piers. And in Charleston, the tea was unloaded from the ships but not sold.

That wasn’t enough to catch the attention of the British. A group of Bostonians decided that it was time to be noticed. Colonists disguised as Native Americans boarded ships carrying tea from the East Indies Company and dumped about 45 tons of tea into the harbor.

Reactions to the demonstration were mixed. Some colonists cheered. Others, like Ben Franklin, weren’t so pleased. And the Brits? They were, to say the least, pissed (and not in the fun, British way). The following year, Parliament closed Boston’s port and passed a series of acts meant to punish the colonists, referred to as the “Intolerable Acts.”

What followed was a series of meetings which culminated in the creation of the Continental Congress. A short time later, the colonies would declare their independence saying goodbye forever to Parliament, the Royal family, kidney pie and David Beckham (well, we ended up with Becks after all).

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