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Rescuing Britain from the EU - "Outdoor activities"

Yesterday we wrote that ideas drawn from Britain’s history of liberty could be used in planning a rescue.

Because the 16th of December is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party we have turned for our first historical example to Brits in America. We think that you will draw your own startling parallels between actions taken two hundred years ago and actions that could be taken in Britain today.

Connections

In the 1760s, Brits in both America and Britain were connected by language, culture, blood, and trade. In America British subjects were shocked when Parliament prohibited them from issuing legal paper money (an action that destabilized their economy) and outraged when Parliament levied taxes on the sale of sugar, coffee and wine.

Some MPs had qualms, but others, supported by George III, insisted that Parliament could tax every subject wherever he was and despite his lack of representation. This was contrary to the rights gained by the British since the 13th century, and William Pitt the Elder passionately urged Parliament to allow Brits in America to be represented in Parliament.

Why the fuss over taxes?

You might wonder why Brits in America were so concerned about taxes. There were several reasons. Like EU functionaries today, British governors lived lavishly. The hard-working citizen could see that his tax money was being wasted, and was infuriated he had no voice in how it was being spent. In addition to his natural compulsion to keep what he earned for his family, and to have a say in how his money would be spent, the 18th century British subject realized some taxes were counter-productive, and would destroy his own and everyone else's well-being.

Because they lived hundreds of years ago, we might imagine they knew less about politics or economics than we do. Reading their letters, books, and pamphlets it becomes obvious that they understood at least as much if not more. They certainly knew their rights, and if they did not, one of hundreds of presses churning out political pamphlets would offer an explanation. We, who are dependent on mainstream newspapers and the BBC, are far less informed. Like a teabag we are well steeped in the prevailing propaganda, but we know little else.

Obstreperous

In addition to being well read, Brits in America were physically active and obstreperous. It is a useful way to be.

In 1765 Parliament insists on passing the Stamp Act, which will tax every piece of printed material in America, including newspapers, bills, legal documents, and playing cards. Journalists are livid, and merchants are worried that the act will wreck commerce.

A Stamp Act Congress convenes in New York, and sends a petition to George III arguing that taxation without representation violates their English civil rights. When the Stamp Act goes into effect November 1, legal transactions in America grind to a halt, and riots break out. The Sons of Liberty, a freedom-loving group, organize in every colony, and force Stamp Act agents to resign.

We are not sure what kind of pressure they brought to bear. Social? Physical?

In Britain the 1628 Petition of Right had outlawed the quartering of soldiers on civilians, but in 1765 Parliament passes a law requiring colonists in America to house, supply, and transport troops. The New York Assembly agrees to house and transport 1100 men, but probably foreseeing an expensive liquor bill, declines to pay for their daily rum and hard cider.

Parliament, as petty as the EU, retaliates by declaring all the acts of the New York Assembly null and void. Violence breaks out between British soldiers and armed colonists, among them members of the Sons of Liberty.

Government arrogance

Parliament withdraws the Stamp Act, and acting with the insolent arrogance of the EU in this century, imposes the Declaratory Act. This states that Parliament has the power to legislate any laws governing the American colonies in all cases. Parliament then imposes the Townshend Acts – new taxes on glass, paper, and tea. To the dismay of British subjects in America the tax money does not go to the soldiers who are supposed to protect them, but into the pockets of the colonial governors. Withholding the salaries of unreasonable governors had been an effective defense against their abuses. Now Parliament had summarily removed this protection.

Joseph Warren, a young Boston doctor, protests the Acts in the Gazette. The British Government prosecutes the newspaper for seditious libel, but the grand jury refuses to return an indictment.

Warren’s friend Sam Adams publishes a Circular Letter that calls on everyone in America to resist taxation without representation. The Circular (think group email plus direct mail) is rushed to every colonial assembly. The Government in London orders the assemblies not to endorse Adams’ Circular, but the assemblies of New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts do. Trade boycotts and coordinated resistance spread.

In 1768, John Dickinson, who lives on a farm near Wilmington, Delaware, is aroused by what he considers the Mother Country's injustice. He writes the Farmer's Letters. His 12 letters spread like wildfire in colonial newspapers, and create a sensation. They deny Parliament’s supremacy, and suggest that Americans can govern themselves.

In 1769 in Virginia 37-year-old George Washington presents a set of resolutions to the House of Burgesses. He calls for Virginia to oppose both taxation without representation and Parliament's plans to try American protestors in Britain where they will be denied a jury of their peers.

In 1771 J.L. de Lolme, who has left Switzerland and become a British citizen, writes a book called The Constitution of England. He points out that the liberties of the people are “feeble defences against the real strength of those who govern.” If a ruler decides to ignore his people’s rights and property, what can they do? De Lolme answers: Resist: The Laws of England look upon resistance “as the ultimate and lawful resource against the violences of Power.” His book becomes a bestseller in America.

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And now after this necessarily brief account (hopefully it has not struck you as too long) we come to the Boston Tea Party.

Anger over taxes and the seizure of ships (rightly or wrongly accused of smuggling) inflames tempers. Bostonians boycott East India Company tea so successfully that the Company has tons of unsold tea in its warehouses.

In 1773, Parliament gives the East India Company preferential treatment so it can undersell American tea merchants and smugglers. In November, three East India ships loaded with tea sail into Boston Harbor.

In mass meetings Bostonians decide to send the ships straight back to London. The governor refuses to allow the ships to leave until import duties are paid. Eight thousand Bostonians protest. On the night of December 16, 150 activists disguised as American Indians board the ships, and dump over 200 tons of tea into the drink.

Over the course of previous centuries, men and women in Britain had won the rights that the British in America demanded. Reading, writing, publishing, organizing, petitioning, and meeting together, British subjects in America began to participate in "outdoor activities" such as the Tea Party to defend their rights and liberties. Each action increased the momentum for the next action.

The date led us to begin with this example, but there are plenty more from Britain, and some actions underway today.


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