Posted by: mutantpoodle | April 20, 2009

Morning Cup of Tea

Boston Tea Party - December 16, 1773

Boston Tea Party - December 16, 1773

Via Avedon Carol, some historical perspective on the original Boston Tea Parties. Thom Hartmann found a first hand account of same, and the perspective is eye-opening. It turns out that they were less about taxation without representation than about the Wal-Mart of the late 18th Century looking to crush the independent teashops in Boston:

Although schoolchildren are usually taught that the American Revolution was a rebellion against “taxation without representation,” akin to modern day conservative taxpayer revolts, in fact what led to the revolution was rage against a transnational corporation that, by the 1760s, dominated trade from China to India to the Caribbean, and controlled nearly all commerce to and from North America, with subsidies and special dispensation from the British crown.

Hewes notes: “The [East India] Company received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America…” allowing it to wipe out New England–based tea wholesalers and mom-and-pop stores and take over the tea business in all of America. “Hence,” wrote, “it was no longer the small vessels of private merchants, who went to vend tea for their own account in the ports of the colonies, but, on the contrary, ships of an enormous burthen, that transported immense quantities of this commodity … The colonies were now arrived at the decisive moment when they must cast the dye, and determine their course … ”

Three things:

First, this means that there is a historical line between the original Tea Party and the latest version. It is in the rage against Wall Street, which pretty clearly was present among many of those protesting (and the easiest element of the protests with which to sympathize), even if it got drowned out by the crazy conspiracy theorists and racist vitriol that permeated last Wednesday’s gatherings. (Devilstower at Daily Kos argues that, at their core, the modern Tea Partiers aren’t the GOP faithful so much as the Perot faithful of 1992, who are now disciples of Ron Paul and the Constitution Party – his point being that they won’t be the organizing core of a GOP renaissance in 2010.)

Second, part of the account linked to makes clear that the British government was completely compromised by its financial interest in the East India Company, which, in a sort of Blackwater parallel to today, was actually the entity that colonized America for the British. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Third, it would have been much more fun to hear THAT story in elementary school, or at least in high school.

I’ve been fairly (a) dismissive, (b) mocking, and (c) critical of the tea parties, and with (what I think is) good reason. But find me a group that’s focused on eliminating corporate America’s disproportionate influence on policy in this country, and I’ll be right there with them.

In any event, I think (hope) I’m done with this insanity for a while. It’s nice to go out with a whiff of highbrow historical perspective.


  1. In a measure of their naivety of complex issues and ignorance of how politics works, in a room of some 600 people at the recent Tea Party convention, nearly 80% raised their hands when asked if they “had never been into politics before.”

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