The “New” Intolerable Acts
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
The Seven Years War, the French and Indian War in the American Colonies, had left the British Monarchy with a debt of £133 million. In an attempt to repay this deficit the British Parliament began to levy additional taxes on the Colonies. For ten years following the war, 1764-1774, a succession of Acts were passed intended to increase revenues from the Colonies. 1764 saw the Sugar Act which, in addition to raising duties and fees from the import of sugar into the colonies also brought the Royal Navy into customs enforcement. The Stamp Act, also in 1764, was nothing more than a huge tax increase, intended to “further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same; and for amending such parts of the several acts of parliament relating to the trade and revenues of the said colonies and plantations, as direct the manner of determining and recovering the penalties and forfeitures therein mentioned.” These were followed by the Quartering Act which allowed British Soldiers to be housed in the “unoccupied” homes of the American Colonists. These Acts, coupled with abuses by the Royal Navy in its customs enforcement mission, were seen as increasingly restrictive and grew in unpopularity.
In reaction to these Acts, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed the Stamp Act Resolutions, which had been offered by, then 29 year old, Patrick Henry. The resolutions proposed several now familiar claims:
· American colonists had transported British rights to North America at the time of their immigration.
· Those rights had twice been confirmed in Virginia’s royal charters.
· The right to be taxed by representatives of one’s own choosing was one of the most fundamental British liberties.
Henry included one unforeseen idea as well:
· Only colonial assemblies had the right to impose taxes on their constituents and that right could not be assigned to any other body.
On May 30th, 1765, Henry gave his first speech as a member of the House of Burgesses defending his resolutions. It has come to be known as his “If This be Treason” speech. Nearing the end of his oratory, he said, “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third…” At that point he was interrupted by cries of “Treason!” from delegates who easily recognized the reference to assassinated leaders. Henry paused briefly, and then calmly finished his sentence: “…may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.”
The popularity of these resolutions and the ideas contained in them spread like wildfire, stories on the Virginia Resolutions were carried by the newspapers of the day and similar resolutions were passed by groups in other Colonies.
In 1765, Parliament reacted to the Virginia Resolutions and the growing sedition in the Colonies with the Declaratory Act which was intended to further bind the colonies to Great Britain and stated “resolutions, votes, orders, and proceedings, in any of the said colonies or plantations, whereby the power and authority of the parliament of Great Britain, to make laws and statutes as aforesaid, is denied, or drawn into question, are, and are hereby declared to be, utterly null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever.” The popular idea of being governed by their fellow Colonists would not be realized, local governance could now be declared null and void if it were anything other than a rubber stamp for the Crown’s policies.
1767 saw the Townshend Act, intended to provide additional revenue (£40,000 a year) to the Crown by levying several new taxes and raising duties for the importation of British goods. The Act revived the anti-British reaction to the Stamp Act, Colonists reacted in 1768 with the Boston Non-Importation Agreement, basically a boycott of British goods, resulting in the occupation of Boston by British Troops. The boycott worked, in 1773 the Townshend Act raised just half of the expected revenue, tensions were high, the Colonies had already seen the Boston Massacre, not actually a massacre but effectively sold under that description to the Colonists. The Gaspee Affair, in 1772, saw a British Naval vessel burned by colonists after it had run aground chasing a colonial smuggler.
By this time the British East India Company was on the brink of financial collapse, in an attempt to prop up the struggling company and mollify the Colonies, the East India Company was given a trading monopoly with the colonies with teh passage of the Tea Act. The tax on tea would remain in place but with the monopoly the price could be significantly lowered. Parliament hoped the Colonists would be happy to receive the cheaper tea and therefore comply with the still present tax on it. While most activists once again advocated boycott, some went further. When Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson allowed three tea laden ships to enter Boston Harbor, before the taxes could be collected, a group of Bostonians stormed the ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The tea lost was valued at over $750,000 in current American dollars.
1774 saw the British reaction to the Boston Tea Party, another series of Acts, these earning the name “The Intolerable Acts” in the Colonies. The Boston Port Act blockaded the Boston Harbor, the Administration of Justice Act granted a change of venue to trials conducted in Massachusetts to any other British Colony or to Great Britain itself. The Massachusetts Government Act abrogated the colony’s charter and provided for a greater amount of royal control. As Lord North explained to Parliament, the purpose of the act was “to take the executive power from the hands of the democratic part of government.” The Quartering Act was little changed from the Act of 1764 but did provide the American activists with additional fuel for their fires. Finally the Quebec Act established the Colony of Quebec, cutting off the Colonies westward expansion by including Ohio, which was comprised of what is now Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota, to the province of Quebec. The combination of these repressive acts and the utter disdain they demonstrated for the Colonists desires for self governance and a return to productive British citizenship were the last straw.
Local elections, Colonial Legislatures and Committees of Correspondence sent delegates from all the Colonies except Georgia, to the First Continental Congress in September of 1774. The task was unclear at first, but the leadership present in the First Continental Congress decided to, one last time, attempt to plead the Colonies case to King and Parliament. On October 14th, 1774 they issued the Declaration and Resolves, a statement of principles common to all the Colonies. Congress voted to meet again the following year if these grievances were not attended to by England. The Declarations and Resolves were strongly worded and did not offer the King and Parliament much choice but it was a choice. Many were beyond attempting reconciliation yet again but thoughts of treason were sobering and one last attempt was made.
We find ourselves today awaiting the formation of our “Conservative Congress” and the issuance of our Declarations and Resolves. Our deficit began, not with a War but years ago with Social Security and the progressive camel getting its nose under the tent. Social Security was followed by “The Great Society”, “The War on Poverty”, and the thousands of bureaucracies necessary for the government to manage them. Incrementalism has allowed a slow but steady increase in the size of the Federal Government, expansion of social programs and entitlements to the point where nearly 50% of the American people do not pay the taxes upon which these programs depend. It has changed both our political parties, one to a fanatic leftist organization not even recognizable as the mutant spawn of its previous self, the other to a cringing, frightened collection of lost souls whose only desire is to hear something nice about themselves from the leftist controlled media, most without enough spine to stand erect much less actually represent the large portion of the citizenry who now find themselves at odds with the administration.
A year ago, thousands of Americans were dissatisfied with our elected leadership. The minority of those dissatisfied individuals held their noses and voted for the cringing candidate of compromise and aisle crossing, the majority were swept up in “Hope and Change”. That hope and change has brought about the New Intolerable Acts, resulting in the same reaction the original acts brought from American Colonists 235 years ago.
The first of these New Intolerable Acts was TARP and its $700+ Billion expenditure. The next was the Stimulus, or the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, passed in a rush to avoid “catastrophe”, unread. As time wears on the reasons for passing it prove the lies the American people were told about its necessity and its planned effects. As of September, less than $94 Billion has actually been spent, and word is leaking that the money authorized for “shovel ready” projects was always planned to be with held until 2010, an election year in which the majority party will need to be seen as accomplishing something. Unemployment still climbs above the promised cap that the stimulus would provide and only clever games with the numbers keep it below 10%. So the American people were lied to, the rush necessary to pass this Act without even reading it was actually to hide its details from us, not due to any pending catastrophe.
Another of the New Intolerable Acts still lingers in congress after having been passed by the House, Cap and Trade. The longer it lingers the more Americans see it for what it truly is as well, a power grab by the Federal Government and a money machine for the progressive Congress, funneling money into their social policies by raping and pillaging every citizen and private business in America at the cost of our entire economy.
Nearly every other action taken by the Obama administration adds into these Intolerable Acts, from the order to close Gitmo to the plethora of Czars found in the White House. With holding funds from our democratic neighbor after Honduras lawfully and in accordance with their democratic Constitution expelled the “no longer” President who violated that Constitution. The only budget that finds itself cut in Washington is Defense, and that in a time when America is sending its best and brightest into harms way.
The Tea Parties that began to voice our dismay with the progressive, statist policies were met with derision from our elected officials. When leftist sponsored anti-war protesters disrupted Senate Hearings or camped outside the President’s home the protesters were praised for “speaking truth to power” and being patriotic, when we protest the leftist’s actions we are racist, nazi tea-baggers. Obama’s Department of Homeland Security continues to warn about “right wing extremists” while left wing extremists murder pro-life supporters and even failed Presidents feel empowered to call Americans racist.
The American people and the progressive agenda collided in the issue of Health Care. Another thousand plus page bill stalled and could not be passed in reaction to some perceived calamity, leaving the American people with the entire August Recess to get a jump on our elected legislators and read it for themselves. The naked government power grab which is HR 3200, and every other liberal bill for health care, has been seen, and seen through, by the American people. Even after hearing it from our own mouths at town halls across the country, the statist legislators maneuver to force the bill through against our will. As their own pundits proclaim the American people “too stupid” to know what is good for us, the Senate flirts with a seldom used budgetary measure which would allow them to pass it with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes actually required. They may as well issue their own Declaratory Act and justify ignoring their constituents.
While the leftists ranks in Congress swell with tax cheats and corruption they drop everything and attack the one Representative of the People who dared to tell the truth, one elected official who dared tell the Nation that the President was a liar was censured by the same tax cheats and corrupt officials who sell their votes and legislation for campaign contributions.
Ladies and Gentlemen of Washington DC, the Conservative Congress is in session. We grow weary of your disdain and your failure to Represent us, we shall issue our Declarations and Resolves, at which time you will have one year to attend our grievances. The next step we take is up to you.
Contributor to The Minority Report