April 12, 2017
Many believe the Revolutionary War began with . However, that just marked the organized military portion of a war that had been ensuing for years.
After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, Great Britain was saddled with a huge financial burden. Parliament decided to tax the colonists to cover the debt they incurred for defending them in the war. Since the war was declared between Britain and France, the British colonists hardly found it appropriate that they should pay for it. In addition, it violated the constitution Britain had with the territories in the New World. The English Bill of Rights strictly forbid the levying of taxes without Parliament’s approval. Colonists argued Parliament infringed on their rights, as they had no representation in the governmental body. (see ) Parliament, however, maintained their representation was “virtual.” And so begins the popular slogan, “No taxation without representation.”
Parliament had enacted the Molasses Act in 1733, yet it was rarely enforced. After the war, they passed a modified version commonly referred to as the Sugar Act of 1764, in order to pay the war debt. It was designed to collect the taxes many evaded under the original Molasses Act. It also restricted foreign trade so as to spur economic growth in Britain. This was followed by the Stamp Act of 1765, which infuriated the colonists by requiring taxes on all paper products. As an internal tax, or one on items within a nation or colony, it even included products produced in America. Stamps on the paper proved the tax was paid. Intended to raise revenue to pay for British soldiers in the Americas, the new tax was met with riots and boycotts. (see ) The Act was repealed on March 17, 1766, but the desire to collect money from the colonists still burned in the hearts of the British.
Additional taxes and regulations followed, which collectively became known as the Townshend Acts. There is not a pure consensus as to the precise acts included under the "Townshend Acts" heading, yet the most commonly mentioned are: the Revenue Act of 1767, the Indemnity Act (1767), the Commissioners of Customers Act (1767), the Vice Admiralty Court Act (1768), and the New York Restraining Act (1767) (see ).
One purpose of these acts was to raise funds from the colonists to pay for governors and judges in the Americas. Britain used the monies to promote loyalty among these government officials. As a result, they favored and enforced Britain's trade regulations and other restrictive legislation, regardless of the rights of the colonists. So in essence, colonists were being forced to pay the salaries of those purposely being used to keep them subjected to the crown. (see )
A more sought-after and long-term desired outcome of the Townshend Acts was to set a precedent that Britain had the right to tax and control the colonies as they see fit.
The first of the Townshend Acts, the New York Restraining Act, was passed on June 15, 1767, specifically targeted to combat New York's resistance of the Quartering Act. (see ) This Act halted all New York Assembly and New York governor's ability to pass bills until they complied with the Quartering Act. In 1765, Parliament had passed the Quartering Act, which permitted British soldiers to impose on Americans, requiring them to provide housing, food, and other supplies at their own expense. New York, and other colonies, rejected the Act on two counts. First, with the French and Indian War over, colonists believed the necessity for soldiers was over. Second, it was viewed as another Act of taxation without representation.
Believing the only issue with the Stamp Act was that it was internal, Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed an external Revenue Act of 1767 to replace the Sugar Act. The new tax, sometimes called the Townshend Act, was attached to imported British goods and passed Parliament on June 29, 1767. Items affected were lead, paper, paint, glass and tea. Though it did not receive the violent reaction the Stamp Act generated, Americans rejected them nonetheless.
As a response to the Acts, colonists organized a non-importation agreement and eventually stopped importing British goods until the Acts were repealed. They also boycotted any imported products violating their agreement.
Others fought back with a pen. Speaking for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Founding Father Samuel Adams distributed a leaflet while John Dickinson wrote a series of essays called Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania discussing the British oppression. These documents supported the non-importation agreements and encouraged the public to continue them as they made an almost instantaneous effect on British trade.
In compliance with the Commissioners of Customs Act, the American Customs Board was created and seated in Boston. Inspectors searched ships at will for possible smuggled items and to ensure duty was paid on cargo. However, smuggling was common and officials often looked the other way for a bribe, only recording partial cargo amounts. Colonists also supported smuggling as it kept prices on goods down. Well-known Boston merchant, John Hancock, made his fortune smuggling cargo on his sloop Liberty. Already a patriot, Hancock’s resistance to Britain was also known to the American Customs Board, which was determined to end smuggling. Therefore, when an inspector boarded the ship with allegations of smuggling, the captain locked him up until all the cargo was unloaded, then reported a small shipment in the log. The incident was kept quite for a month, until one man confessed on June 9, 1768. The next day, Liberty, was seized. The Sons of Liberty instigated a riot, forcing custom officials to flee to Castle William for safety. Hancock hired John Adams to represent him in what became a decidedly controversial trial. However, officials dropped the charges and returned Hancock’s ship, concerned he would appeal his ruling to officials in Britain, who would discover their bribery scheme. (see ) Nevertheless, this did not subside the restlessness among Bostonians.
Britain sent soldiers to the port city of Boston to enforce the American Customs Board and try to control the riots. However, it only increased the tensions already coming to a boiling point. The lid blew off the pot on March 5, 1770, with the Boston Massacre. (see ) As news traveled extremely slow at the time, reports of the event did not reach Britain until weeks later. Ironically, on the same day as the massacre, Parliament met and began discussing repealing the Acts. Their author, Townshend, died shortly after they were approved and never saw the destruction of his actions. His successor, Lord Frederick North, proposed repealing all the Acts except the tea tax. Trying to save face with the colonists, North suggested keeping the tea duty. Instead, it just caused strife between merchants in the colonies needing the imports and colonial craftsmen benefitting from the non-importation agreement.
A month later, Parliament followed through on their repeal of the Townshend Act on April 12, 1770, only leaving the tea tax. In addition, the Quartering Act requirements were withdrawn along with the British troops from Boston. This calmed the masses temporarily until Parliament passed the Tea Act on April 27, 1773. This act did not generate revenue, but rather was designed to boost the East India Company, which had eighteen million pounds of tea needing to be sold. The deceitful legislation led to the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, where the Sons of Liberty dumped 342 chests of East India Company tea into the Boston Harbor. (see and )
The Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts and Tea Act were directly and indirectly addressed in the in their grievances against the King of Great Britain. For example:
- He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
- He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
- He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
- For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
- For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
- For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
- For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
of the specifically address Britain's enforcement of laws allowing them to both search and seize property at will as well as the Quartering Act of soldiers.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Liberty, Romans 13:1 tells us, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Keeping this in mind, we should be slow, patient, and cautious about going against our government. Likewise, governments have a responsibility to God as well, whether they acknowledge it or not. The leaders of this country at the time before the Revolution spent years trying to work with the King, sending him countless petitions for redress of their objections. (see , , and ) However, when it became inevitable that the king was removing God’s authority by his tyrannical ruling, a decision needed to be made.
That being said, as we celebrate Holy Week, it is the most appropriate time to remember that Christ did not come to be an earthly king. We should always strive for truth, justice and equality. In some cases, that means in this sinful world we may have to take up arms against our fellow man. However, our focus and our hope remains in the cross where not only the victory is won, we can take comfort that the perfect king rules in his kingdom and is returning to take us to our heavenly home to live with him for eternity.
That’s my 2 cents.
ACTS OF OPPRESSION