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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Partying, Then and Now

The obverse of Slate's hagiographical approach to the Obama Presidency, has been its vilification of the President's critics. The Tea Party isn't a grassroots protest of an overmighty state, it's a bunch of arrogant blowhards, probably bigoted blowhards at that, undermining the social progress of the nation. So far, so common. Much of the Left has taken the same tack against the Tea Party. Slate being Slate, they use bigger words and make more philosophical and historical allusions. Case in point, this distorted comparison between the original Tea Party and the current one:

The British hawks, like Palin, saw self-restraint as wimpy and dangerous. If Britain retreated from the tax policies that had provoked the Tea Party, they warned, the colonists would take this as "Proofs of our Weakness, Disunion and Timidity." Miller writes, "Few Englishmen believed that the mother country could retain its sovereignty if it retreated in the face of such outrage: it was now said upon every side that the colonists must be chastised into submission."


So rather than apologize or reach out, Britain flaunted its dominance and power. It imposed military rule in Massachusetts and shut down the port of Boston, thinking that this would divide the colonies and starve the insurgents into submission. Instead, Miller writes, the crackdown made Bostonians, in the eyes of the other colonies, "martyrs to American liberty." The colonies united, and Britain was defeated.

Which is the same mistake, supposedly, Mrs Palin is making in demanding the President stop molly coddling an assortment of hostile regimes. The implication being that if America played nice with Venezuela and Iran, it would avoid the disaster that Britain faced in losing most of its American possessions. The context dropping is astonishing. It was not the tone of the British government, or even the closing of Boston harbour and dispatching of Redcoats, that caused the American Revolution. Had the residents of mid-Georgian Massachusetts simply been engaged in a bit of co-ordinated mass tax evasion, it's unlikely that Americans in the other twelve colonies would have pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in helping to repulse the occupation. Nor would the North ministry have dispatched troops, had it not grasped the gravity of what a successful resistance to the Tea Act would have entailed for the economic and political system Westminster was trying to preserve. A more tactful approach would not have reconciled the colonists, nor changed the essential aims sought by George III and Lord North. The colonists opposed being taxed without their consent. The Imperial government needed money and ignored constitutional scruples in trying to get it. These were not differences in style or attitude, but a fundamental contest over the nature of imperial governance. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on April 28, 2010 | Permalink


he Imperial government needed money and ignored

constitutional scruples .
Posted by PUBLIUS on April 28, 2010 | Permalink

No taxation without representation. The tax collected all went back into British coffers with no seen benefit to the taxpayers. If the British had reinvested even a small portion in something other than the military or British elite, the uprising might have been averted. As you stated, a tactful approach to the discontent was ignored in favor of perceived military superiority. Common sense was in short supply then...as it is today.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-04-30 10:17:50 PM


The question was never what the money was being spent on, part of it was being used to defend North America. The British taxpayer had subsidized the defense of the 13 colonies during the Seven Years War. It wasn't unreasonable that they should want to see some of that money back. Rather than either asking for it, or granting the colonies representation at Westminster, they simple took it. Like with Ship Money in the 1630s Englishmen, on whichever side of the Atlantic, objected to taxation without representation. The Americans of that generation were not as easily bribed with their own, other people's money, as their descendants.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-05-01 4:47:01 AM

As the veil is lifted, other scenarios reveal themselves. I suspect that the current economic crisis is exactly the one we need right now in order to see clearly that our way of life is unsustainable. The human economy and the planet's ecology have been on a collision course for a long time now, and we probably should be thankful that the economies have finally started to lose traction. (By the way, did you ever notice that the words economy and ecology both start with the syllable eeeeekkk!?)

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