This week, 1763 to 1775 or January 1776, is all about the path to independence. Almost everything I cover could constitute fodder for one of these diaries, as the British attempts to pay off their debts from the Seven Years' War incensed the colonists more and more and more. The historiographical debate here hinges on which colonists (by social class, education and geography) did most to fuel Revolutionary fervor, and during the past twenty years, historians have been adding the common people to the account and stirring, to badly paraphrase Charlotte Bunch on women's history.
Thus, this week's diaries (yes, diaries, since the last one was too long) will be based on a recent book:
It's relatively well accepted nowadays in historical circles the revolutionary fervor of the people ran ahead of that of their elected representatives, and Breen makes that really clear in this book. But first, something I was hoping I'd do a lot of here, and some discussion of the REALLY familiar events that happened in Boston at the end of 1773.
Yes, the Boston Tea Party. There's a really good book about that and today's misuse of the term too.
Go read it. Really. She does a lot more with the Tea Party than I'm going to do here, and not because I wasn't trying. I just went to three Tea Party sites to find a statement of purpose that said why they used the name and wasn't as vague as this:
Tea Party members share similar core principles supporting the United States Constitution as the Founders intended, such as:but you have to register with them to find out anything, and, well, no. There will be time to mock this list of principles when we get to the Constitution (actually, when we get to the Articles of Confederation), because these were NOT the core principles the Founders wrote into either document
• Limited federal government
• Individual freedoms
• Personal responsibility
• Free markets
• Returning political power to the states and the people
The Tea party wasn't actually about taxation. It was a protest against the fact that, in order to save the failing British East India Company, the tax on tea was jiggered so it was paid at origin, which made the tea cheaper than the smuggled Dutch East India tea the merchants of Boston had been selling. The fact that Boston was the only port in the colonies where it was likely that anyone would think of unloading the tea is what caused the people to protest. As John Adams wrote about the Tea Act, it represented “an attack upon a fundamental principle of the [still unwritten British] constitution.” Accordingly, on December 16, 1773, several hundred Bostonians, mostly young apprentices and artisans in training, put on face paint and Indian headdresses and threw an estimated ten thousand pounds worth of East India Company tea to the bottom of Boston Harbor.
Vandalism doesn't seem like the kind of action a conservative group would want to uphold, does it, with all their enthusiasm for Law and Order? What I want to unpack here is, why the face paint and the Indian headdresses? Here's how Nathaniel Currier depicted it in 1846:
Not exactly a disguise, was it? Here's a clue, in the form of a cartoon protesting the Coercive/Intolerable Acts published in May, 1774:
The caption for this, "The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught" supplied by the Library of Congress reads
Cartoon shows Lord North, with the "Boston Port Bill" extending from a pocket, forcing tea (the Intolerable Acts) down the throat of a partially draped Native female figure representing "America" whose arms are restrained by Lord Mansfield, while Lord Sandwich, a notorious womanizer, restrains her feet and peeks up her skirt. Britannia, standing behind "America", turns away and shields her face with her left hand.So two things here. "A partially draped Native female figure representing America." Exactly what the young men with face paint and headdresses were doing: Representing America. Saying, "We're not like you any more, Britain," and completing the process of Americanization that began when their ancestors crossed the Atlantic, no matter how much these ancestors tried to claim they were simply Britons living abroad.
Second, Lord Sandwich leering up America's skirt. All I can say is that if this doesn't prefigure the treatment Rush Limbaugh gave Sandra Fluke this week, nothing does. Rush, wanting SO badly to peek up the skirts of the women of America and unable to control himself. Nothing changes in the way conservative governments treat women, and I don't see any reason I can't compare Limbaugh to a cartoon.
And since the caption referred to the Coercive/Intolerable acts, here they are, summarized by lexrex.com (British English below):
Quartering Act: Established March 24, 1765And about the Quebec Act. It also sanctioned Catholic practice in Quebec, and Massachusetts saw sanctioning any continuation of Catholic practice as a problem.
This bill required that Colonial Authorities to furnish barracks and supplies to British troops. In 1766, it was expanded to public houses and unoccupied buildings, and was updated again June 2, 1774, to include occupied buildings.
Boston Port Bill: Effective June 1, 1774
This bill closed the port of Boston to all colonists until, the damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid for.
Administration of Justice Act: Effective May 20, 1774
This bill stated that British Officials could not be tried in provincial courts for capital crimes. They would be extradited back to Britain and tried there. This effectively gave the British free reign to do whatever they wished, because no justice would be served while they were still in the colonies.
Massachusetts Government Act: Effective May 20, 1774
This bill effectively annulled the charter of the colonies, giving the British Governor complete control of the town meetings, and taking control out of the hands of the colonialists. (See the Michigan Emergency Manager law for that)
Quebec Act: Established May 20, 1774
This bill extended the Canadian borders to cut off the western colonies of Conn. Mass. and Va.
Incidentally, from Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776), the effect of the Coercive/Intolerable Acts in Boston:
It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow; the evil is not sufficiently brought to their doors to make them feel the precariousness with which all American property is possessed. But let our imaginations transport us for a few moments to Boston, that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdom, and instruct us for ever to renounce a power in whom we can have no trust. The inhabitants of that unfortunate city, who but a few months ago were in ease and affluence, have now no other alternative than to stay and starve, or turn out to beg. Endangered by the fire of their friends if they continue within the city, and plundered by the soldiery if they leave it. In their present condition they are prisoners without the hope of redemption, and in a general attack for their relief, they would be exposed to the fury of both armies.The rest of 1774 as my break from grading midterm exams probably by Wednesday.
Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 6:58 AM PT: Updated to incorporate the comment about the Michigan Emergency Manager situation (thanks, hlsmlane) and to fix a couple of typos. Off to teach my weekend college courses (actually, to proctor midterm exams) -- back by 10PM EST.