Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Origins of the American Revolution

Tell me these words below aren't the actions of government happening today.

Scanned from John C. Miller’s book 1943
by BlackPowderBill Jan. 9,2008

assembly and threatened the printer of the Virginia Gazette with the loss of his salary as official printer unless he kept his paper clear of radicalism. In consequence, the Whigs found that the only newspaper in the Old Dominion was "totally engrossed for the vile Purpose of ministerial Craft." 16 Moreover, it suspended pub­lication for four months in 1765-1766 on the ground that no stamps could be procured.
The Virginia press was thus silenced during one of the most critical periods of the revolutionary era. The Sons of Liberty in the Middle colonies quickly came to the rescue, how­ever, by sending a printer to Virginia to establish a Whig news­paper in the province. The royal governor soon found himself un­able to maintain his control over the press: the old Virginia Gazette threw off the traces and became a Whig sheet and thus all the governor got for his pains was the establishment of two radical newspapers in place of one.17

The most significant work of the papers lay in uniting the colo­nies behind the leadership of the seaports. After the repeal of the Stamp Act, British taxation fell almost wholly upon the trading towns: the country people did not see the commissioners, custom­house officers, and admiralty judges who to the seagoing patriots were the embodiment of British tyranny.

It was vital to the success of the revolutionary movement that the farmers — who composed the great bulk of the population — be persuaded to come to the aid of the townsmen; yet they revealed an alarming disposition to regard the quarrel as being exclusively between the seaports and the British government.

To convince the farmers of their stake in the struggle, the town patriots were obliged to aim their propaganda at the weakest place in the people's armor: their fear of taxation by the British government. As a result, it was the farmers who, during the revolutionary period, snuffed tyranny in every tainted breeze and who lived in fear of future evils at the hands of the mother country. It would be more exact to say, however, that they did not snuff tyranny — they read about it in their weekly newspapers.

16 Maryland Gazette, October 17, 1765. New York Journal or General Advertiser, November 27, 1765.
17 James Parker to Benjamin Franklin, May 6, 1766, Franklin MSS., Amer­ican Philosophical Society. New York Journal or General Advertiser, No­vember 27, 1766.


When serving up their propaganda, the Whigs believed that seasoning and spice ought to be used liberally. "People who have weak appetites must be warmed," said they.18
This recipe succeeded admirably in making the farmers quake for their liberty and prop­erty. A colonial farmer could scarcely pick up his newspaper with­out encountering dire warnings of his fate if the British Parliament succeeded in establishing its right to tax the colonies.

Then, pre­dicted the Whig journalists, Americans would be buried beneath an avalanche of imposts: hearth taxes, window taxes, taxes upon imports, taxes upon exports, land taxes — nothing, it seemed, would escape the gimlet eye of the tax gatherer. As Americans studied this dismal catalogue, they might well conclude that they would shortly "be brought to a morsel of bread, or but one meal of meat in a week" in order that Englishmen might consume double ra­tions.19 "Perhaps before long," remarked Alexander Hamilton, "your tables, chairs, and platters, and dishes, and knives, and forks, and every thing else, would be taxed.

Nay, I don't know but they would find means to tax you for. every child you got, and for every kiss your daughters received fronl their sweethearts; and, God knows, that would soon ruin you." 20 If farmers permitted Parliament to tax merchandise imported into the colonies, the fatal precedent would be established whereby they would be reduced to poverty and slavery.

For them to contend that they had "a Right to hold the Lands which they have honestly purchased," the Whigs pointed out, "will be as great a piece of Folly, as it was for the Merchants vainly to pretend that they had a Right to keep their own Money, which they had fairly gained after many a Risque in their Trade."
With these warnings dinned in their ears, it was not remarkable that country people began to ask each other: "What would you say, if a Fellow should come to take a list of your Cattle that Parliament might tax you for them at so much a head? ... If Parliament can take away Mr. Hancock's wharf and Mr. Row's wharf they can take away your Barn and my house."22

To prove that this alarm was not baseless, Americans had merely to point to Ireland as a dreadful example of what might happen...

18 Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, 1860, Second Series, IV, 382.
19 Essex Gazette, January 18, 1774.
20 Works of Alexander Hamilton, I, 36-37.
^Boston Gazette, December 23, 1771; August i, 1774.
22'Old Family Letters, edited by Alexander Biddle, Philadelphia, 1892, 140.

Even after 250+ years it seems our founding fathers were correct that any government, even back then liked to tax.

Regards BPB

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