As the Tea Party movement continues to grow all over the nation, I can't help but wonder if they've named themselves for the right historical event.
The original Boston Tea Party was not a protest against the Tea Act and the tax it imposed. It was a protest of the British East India Company being given an exception to the Act, so that it could sell its excess inventory duty-free. You see, many of Boston's enterprising businessmen made some money on the side by smuggling in Dutch tea to escape the tax. The British East India Company was able to undercut the local smugglers. The ship had already been turned away from Philadelphia and New York by irate local entrepreneurs.
Imagine if Wal-Mart obtained a special exemption to Wisconsin's minimum mark-up law for prescription drug sales. Now imagine that a bunch of irate employees of independent pharmacies put on blackface makeup, stormed a Wal-Mart pharmacy, stole its inventory of drugs and dumped them down the storm sewer. That's what the Boston Tea Party was like.
On the other hand, the early history of our nation contained a much more inspiring movement for our modern anti-tax and pro-Second-Amendment activists. In the early days of the United States, the federal government was still struggling to pay the debt from the Revolutionary War. There was no income tax in those days, only consumption taxes (including import tariffs). To raise more revenue, a new tax was levied on the sale of whiskey.
This had a disproportionate effect on poor farmers, particularly on the frontier. Start-up costs for a new farmstead were high (there was all that deforestation to do and the first year's seed to buy). There was also the cost of transporting the grain to market. The only way to turn a profit right away (and make it possible to start a successful farm on the frontier) was to turn your crop into whiskey. The new tax destroyed that profit.
So a bunch of disgruntled farmers took up arms against their new government (in the persons of the tax collectors and mail carriers in the western counties). Washington (the President, not the city) put down the rebellion (which argues against the notion that the Second Amendment, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, gives citizens the right to overthrow the government).
It's really too bad that the teaching of American history has been so dumbed down in recent decades, or maybe Whiskey would be more popular (and populist) than Tea.
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