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The Boston Tea Party

December 16, 2009

As Shakespeare’s Juliet asked:  “What’s in a name?”  I think there is a lot of merit in that question, even when it is not referencing a lovesick fellow from the Montague family. 

There seems to be a rash of bandying about of names without any real conception on what those words mean.  For example, Socialism.  I would imagine that actual, real Socialists get a little cheesed off when President Obama gets labeled a Socialist.  He is not.  He’s not even anywhere in the parking lot of a humongous sports stadium where Socialism is dead center in the middle of the field.  Not even in Row ZZZ of that parking lot.  But, it’s a word that makes people think scary thoughts and that’s a lot easier than actually debating the merits of any particular policy platform.  Handy that.

Another fine example is the “capitalist” architects of the bank bailout.  That’s not capitalism, it’s caputilism.  Or, spelled differently, kaputilism.  If we really were a true capitalist society, which we aren’t, then there is no “too big to fail” because it would just fail.  The market controls all and it doesn’t have feelings, employees, or an entire government system rolled up into it. 

And then there are people that take up a “mantle” of an actual historic event or movement to try and evoke good, warm fuzzy, patriotic thoughts.  Like the tea bag crowd, proclaiming their patriotic goals, when really it’s all about “Elections Have Consequences . . . except if my guy doesn’t win and we put a man with Kenyan roots in the White House, then it’s all bets off.”  Guess what Tea Partiers?  That’s what 2012 is for.  Unlike the actual Boston Tea Party participants, you do live in a democracy, with representation, and you have a vote.  So stop with the “woe is me” crap.  It’s an insult.

December 16, 1773 – two hundred and thirty six years ago today, a group of colonists, some disguised as Mohawk Indians (nothing like using another group as potential scape goats) boarded the ship Dartmouth and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard.  Some historians link this act of civil disobedience to the tea tax (aka duty) that the British Parliament placed on tea that was shipped to the colonies.  This tea tax paid, interestingly enough, salaries of government officials in the colonies.  When the Tea Act of 1773 was passed, allowing tea consignees in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston, to receive tea from the East India Company on consignment, and sell to the colonists (with a commission of course), some in England argued the tea duty should be repealed as part of the Act.  “No dice” said Prime Minister Lord North.  The interesting thing is because the East India Company could sell tea directly to the colonists, the price actually went down, and in turn undercut the profitable smuggling business that turned a tidy profit.  Needless to say, smugglers were all for riling up folks over the Tea Act.  Other historians say that the whole thing had nothing to do with taxes, and really was a protest over a lot of other issues.

Either way, a lot of tea was dumped into the Boston Harbor, and Whig leader Samuel Adams spun the event as a principled protest instead of an unruly mob looking for a fight.  Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts was not amused, and even Benjamin Franklin stated that the money for the destroyed tea must be paid back.  It was not, and the dumping of 342 cases of tea, among numerous other events, ultimately led to the American Revolution.

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