Patriotic Minute: These acts are intolerable

Terry Lewis
Saturday, February 29, 2020

Grab your musket, your tricorn hat, and your redwhite-and-blue patriotism. We’re marching, minute-byminute, into a revolution. The French and Indian War and the Seven Years War (1756-63) were over, leaving Britain 150 million pounds in debt. Up to this point, the Americans enjoyed the lowest taxes of any colonists in the Western world. But Parliament agreed the colonies needed to be brought into France’s Canadian claims, but now she needed to squeeze revenue from her subjects, including those in North America.

In 1764 Parliament got to work fundraising. First, they levied the Sugar Act. This reduced the taxes on molasses coming into the colonies, but it added a tax on refined sugar, coffee, Spanish wine and non-British textiles. In addition, Britain set up a court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, declaring jurisdiction over most of North America, and threatening the principle of trial by one’s peers. The colonies were forbidden to print money, thus favoring British creditors and harming colonial debt holders. The spark was struck.

Enter the Stamp Act of 1765, adding fuel to the smoldering fire. The Crown affixed stamps of taxation to newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, even playing cards. And this tax must be paid in gold or British sterling -- something that was hard to come by in the colonies.

Following the French and Indian War, exploring and trading west of the Appalachian Mountains was prohibited. Chief Pontiac, head of the Council of Three Tribes, was angered by the blocking of a lucrative trade and began burning British forts. Consequently, 10,000 British soldiers were sent to protect outposts from the hostile tribes. By levying taxes, Britain expected to raise onethird of the funds needed to maintain the troops. Grumblings of “taxation without representation” traveled like smoke from churches to taverns.

Prompted by a sense of injustice and likely the desire to stir things up a bit, a bunch of young toughs got organized and dubbed themselves, "The Sons of Liberty." Their prime targets were the Crown-appointed tax collectors and stamp masters. They terrorized their victims, even adding tar and feathers. More level-headed leaders called for a Stamp Act Congress. In New York City, 26 delegates from nine out of 13 colonies gathered to promote the nonimportation of British goods.

Parliament paid no heed to Colonists’ complaints and slapped on yet another tax. The Townshend Acts taxed glass, paint, lead and – most famously – tea. Again, Colonists were taxed without any representation in Parliament.

But there was a silver lining: Colonists stubbornly refused to import goods from Britain and her colonies. Instead, they beefed up local manufacturing, leading to increased self-sufficiency and off-setting the British-heavy balance of trade. Might selfsufficiency lead to self-government?

In 1768, one more insult was added to the taxation injuries. Four thousand British Regulars boarded ships and crossed the Atlantic to be based in Boston. The trail of treason was blazed.

Terry Lewis, Grass Range, is Patriotic Chair of the Julia Hancock Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The information presented here is filtered from "The Founding of the United States Experience," by Professor Richard D. Brown, copyright 2006, and "1776," by David McCullough, copyright 2005, Simon and Schuster, publishers.

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