Letter: Boston Tea – American Christmas libation
Brian A. Iannucci
St Johns, FL
Upon waking this day, December 16, 2011, I was perusing my email to find yet another salvo in the current melee between the local Republican Party and the Tea Party. The staggering appropriateness of this message allowed me the opportunity to reflect on this date in history.
On December 16, 1773 the Boston Tea Party occurred as a result of the ongoing protest against the taxation of American Colonists by the British Government. It must be remembered that this act of protest did not come without criticism from many Americans who also supported the cause of American Independence.
The Tea Act, passed by British Parliament in 1773, levied a tax on the import of tea to the American Colonies and was another in a long line of taxes imposed on colonists by the British Government. Further, the government-created monopoly that the Tea Act created allowed the British Government to pick the winners and losers in the tea importation business.
In many colonies, tea consignors chose to resign, just as stamp consignors resigned after the Stamp Act of 1765. Among the many concerns Colonists had about the Tea Act was that these sorts of government-sponsored monopolies could spread to other goods.
Many tea consignors resigned because of the Tea Act and refused receipt of the tea that was sent to them to sell. By law, after twenty days, the tea was returned to England.
In every colony except for Massachusetts, consignors refused their tea shipments. To put it another way, protests implored consignors to allow the tea to be returned.
Samuel Adams, a leader of the Whig Party in Massachusetts, organized a meeting on November 29, 1773 at Faneuil Hall to discuss the situation. So many showed up, that the meeting had to be moved to the Old South Meeting House to accommodate the thousands of concerned citizens.
To spite the concerns of Colonists, Massachusetts Governor Hutchinson refused to allow the three ships in Boston Harbor to leave without unloading their cargo and paying the tax that was due. Hutchinson’s refusal to allow the ships to leave port, led to approximately 100 men boarding the three ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, and dumping 342 chests of tea into the harbor.
While the Boston Tea Party inspired similar acts of protest and, in some cases, destructive behavior, there were many who agreed with the cause but not the tactics.
In Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin, an ardent supporter of American Independence, stated publicly that the cost of the tea should be repaid. Also, New York merchant, Robert Murray and three other merchants approached the British Prime Minister, Lord North, and offered to pay for the damages but were turned down.
The parallels that can be drawn to the modern day strife in the Republican Party are quite evident. There is a growing sentiment among citizens that the current direction of the Obama Administration is detrimental to the nation. This concern is shared by every Republican Presidential Candidate.
Further, these concerns have led to a political awakening that has been labeled the Tea Party Movement. This movement has brought the Republican Party an infusion of people who desire to stand up and be heard. This group has found a home in the Republican Party because of their long-standing beliefs of limited government, lower taxes, and more local control.
Naturally, some of them seek to get involved in the operation of the Republican Party. As a result, they have joined the local Republican Executive Committee and have given their time, talents, and treasure to the Republican cause.
The problem arises when some Republicans refuse to see this influx of people as allies and rather label them insurrectionists who seek to “take over” the Republican Party. On the other side, there are Tea Party members who seek to demagogue those that are getting involved in the Republican Party as traitors to their movement.
Both of these ideas are flawed. We are working to achieve the same goals so it would be detrimental for us to believe that these two groups do not have the common ground to unite to achieve them.
Both sides have impugned the actions and methods of the other; calling them “inadequate” or “inappropriate”, for one reason or another. This only adds fuel to this dispute.
Lincoln said in a speech in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln went on to say, “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
I would like to implore all of you to consider the consequences of another four years of the Obama Administration. Further, I would like everyone to take the opportunity of the Christmas Season to reflect on the commonalities espoused by both Republicans and members of the Tea Party.
These commonalities should provide a framework for both groups to unite and further our common goals.
Republicans, take a moment and enjoy Samuel Adams’ uniquely American Christmas libation: Boston Tea. Tea Party members, take a moment to enjoy the words of Lincoln.
It is my fervent hope that both sides can come together in this New Year to strengthen the causes that we hold so dear. Let us cease the division that has thus far proven to be counterproductive in our quest to better America.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer