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Tea Parties: Heir to an American Tradition or Ignorance in Action?

April 22, 2009

Various commentators (Gail Collins of the New York Times provides an example of this view) are claiming that the estimated one million people who came out to protest at over 2,000 venues last April 15th are ignorant of the history of Boston Tea Party of 1773, and why the colonists were in an uproar. The argument goes that the colonists were protesting taxation without representation, while today’s tea partiers HAVE representation, so why the complaints? Let’s review the basic history, compare the two movements, and then evaluate whether the tea parties are legitimate heirs to the American tradition, or are merely a manifestation of ignorance in action. provides a nice summation of the original Boston Tea Party:

“A series of actions including the Stamp Act (1765), the Townsend Acts (1767) and the Boston Massacre (1770) agitated the colonists, straining relations with the mother country. But it was the Crown’s attempt to tax tea that spurred the colonists to action and laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

The colonies refused to pay the levies required by the Townsend Acts claiming they had no obligation to pay taxes imposed by a Parliament in which they had no representation. In response, Parliament retracted the taxes with the exception of a duty on tea – a demonstration of Parliament’s ability and right to tax the colonies. In May of 1773 Parliament concocted a clever plan. They gave the struggling East India Company a monopoly on the importation of tea to America. Additionally, Parliament reduced the duty the colonies would have to pay for the imported tea. The Americans would now get their tea at a cheaper price than ever before. However, if the colonies paid the duty tax on the imported tea they would be acknowledging Parliament’s right to tax them.”

Clearly, the issue was taxation without representation, compounded by prior abuse, and the fear that the Crown would use its tea taxation toehold to oppress the colonists at some future date when the time seemed more opportune.

It is the precise contention of modern tea partiers that the current Congress and Administration misrepresented their intentions (by both intent and omission) to drag the country along a course of radical socialization of the society. Tea partiers believe that unprecedented spending, under the specious cover of stimulating the economy, is actually a blunt attempt to buy permanent political power for the totalitarians now ruling by fiat.

It is not enough for a people to be served by those in power who merely purport to represent them. True representation is not a “bait and switch” operation whereby so-called representatives create a false perception in the mind of the electorate, and then opportunistically leap for raw and total power when offered the choice between upholding the ideals of the founders or crass material and political gain. It is clear (from the massive and growing nationwide demonstrations) that many who expected the direction of the country to change from radical partisanship to cooperation among all citizens now feel like they were sold a “bill of goods”. And despite President Obama’s continuing personal popularity, the popularity of his policies has plummeted as more and more people come to the conclusion that the only explanation for the decisions being implemented now, is that our leaders in Washington have stopped listening to us, and are blindly grasping after permanent power.

Who expected that the Obama Administration would attempt to bring the census into the White House in 2010, thereby contaminating the expectation that the 2012 elections will be conducted in a fair and free manner? Who expected that ACORN, an organization that has been accused of voter registration fraud and is under investigation in more than 10 states- would be awarded billions of taxpayer dollars to politic for those currently in power under the guise of “community organizing”? Every new initiative from the Administration puts 10,000 more people in the streets. For every person in the streets, hundreds sit at home and agree.

So to those who criticize the historical literacy of Americans who reject the despotism of a permanent political class which is now working feverishly to lock in a lifetime of power over a free nation, I have a message for your leaders: In the words of Dawn Wildman of San Diego, who organized four tea parties: “We’re seeing how you vote,” she says. “You’re not paying attention to your constituency. We put you there, and we can take you out.”

2010 is coming.


Dorell, O. (n.d.). Tax revolt a recipe for tea parties. USA Today, Retrieved April 22, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

COLLINS, G. (2009, April 18). Twitters From Texas. New York Times, Retrieved April 22, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

“The Boston Tea Party, 1773,” EyeWitness to History, (2002).

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