More on Tea Parties

Today was the big day. Hundreds of conservatives throughout the country participated in local tea parties to protest Barack Obama’s economic policy. Over 2000 participated here in Harrisburg. I think some Messiah College students attended.

A few days ago I called your attention to Ben Carp’s helpful post comparing these tea parties to the original tea party of December 15, 1773. Now, my friend and fellow historian Andrew Shankman has offered an alternative historical view. Shankman writes:

Tomorrow in what appears to be a scripted farce, some number of Americans will wave tea bags to denounce what they view as the outrageous, un-American taxes of the Obama Administration. The teabags are meant to invoke the Boston Tea Party of December 15, 1773, when, in current U.S. dollars, the Boston Sons of Liberty dumped between $1.5 and $2 million worth of tea into Boston Harbor.

Many of my fellow Obama supporters have denied that these modern tea-partiers can claim a proud American heritage since President Obama has lowered the taxes of the vast majority of U.S. citizens. This modern nonsense, they insist, can, therefore have nothing to do with that brave act of resistance, which provoked the Coercive Acts that led to the First Continental Congress and two years later to the Declaration of Independence.

Yet how wrong my fellow liberals are. In denouncing President Obama’s smug, elitist insistence that taxes be lowered, the modern tea-baggers follow precisely the example of the Boston Sons of Liberty. The Tea Act of 1773, conceived by the ministry of Frederick Lord North, gave the East India Tea Company monopoly privilege to sell tea to the American colonists. This privilege was intended to bail out the floundering company. In exchange for it, the company paid a light tax and also agreed to sell the tea to the colonists at prices lower than they had been before Parliament passed the Tea Act. The Tea Party occurred because the Massachusetts colonial governor, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to let company ships laden with tea that had arrived in the harbor leave without unloading. The tea sat for several days and the time when it would have to be unloaded or seized and sold at public auction neared. Leaders of the Boston Sons understood that if the historically cheap tea made it on shore, whether unloaded by the company or as a result of public seizure, the good citizens of Boston would happily purchase it. So into the harbor it had to go before a principled stand against no taxation without representation ended with Bostonians drinking very cheap (but taxed) tea.

So wave your teabags by all means. Denouncing taxes that have actually been lowered and resisting shrewd, well-designed policies is so American that it predates the United States of America.

Good job, Andy.