Remember When Taxes Used to Cause Revolutions?

Michael Schaus
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Posted: Nov 01, 2014 12:08 AM
Remember When Taxes Used to Cause Revolutions?

On this day in history, King George encouraged Americans to sign a document that became known as the “Declaration of Independence”… Indirectly, of course. In the year of 1765, the King of England managed to do the Obama equivalent of signing Obamacare. With a stunning amount of short-sighted arrogance, the Kingly gentleman from England thrust America into a frenzy of anti-English sentiment. (Racists.) On November 1st, in the year 1765, Britain implemented the Stamp Act.

Defending the American colonies during the French and Indian War, as well as the Pontiac’s Rebellion (no-one liked Pontiac then either, apparently), the Prime Minister of Great Britain decided to make the colonists foot the bill. In 1764 the Sugar Act was implemented, passing a high duty (fancy English-speak for “tax”) on refined sugar. Colonists, though mildly irritated, accepted the tax as a price for the privilege of being an English subject. (Hooray to serfdom, right?)

But the passage of the Stamp Act a year later was just a little too much for us to handle. Placing a tax on virtually every official piece of paper was bad enough; but inscribing the words “Shame to him who thinks evil of it” (in French) on the official stamp crossed the line of decency. The direct tax encouraged some right-wing antigovernment extremists (like Samuel Adams) to organize protests, and even armed resistance (gasp!).

(By the way… French? Really? No wonder some colonists started shooting Redcoats.)

The most benign responses to England’s “taxation without representation” scheme, consisted of boycotts and properly-worded signs (minus the official tax-stamp). But Sam Adams’ group managed to attack a handful of customhouses and kidnap a few tax collectors. (Seriously… Lois Lerner is super lucky she didn’t live in the 1700’s.) For a few months the colonies fell into a perpetual state of economic turmoil, violence, and intense political debate.

So, really, it was kinda like 2014.

Eventually Ben Franklin was given the opportunity to make an appeal before the House of Commons in Parliament. Great Britain repealed the Act four months after it was signed into law. But, the damage had already been done.

Proving that some politicians can’t help but destroy goodwill as soon as they receive it, Parliament managed to pass the “Declaratory Acts” the very same day they repealed America’s Stamp Act. The new Acts asserted that the British government had complete legislative and governmental authority over the Colonies… Strangely, this didn’t go over well with the group of people who fled England for a “new world” in America.

England managed to deteriorate America’s opinion of monarchal (and parliamentary) government by imposing one freedom-killing tax after another. Eventually, a tax on our breakfast beverage sparked a little party in Boston harbor; and that was followed by Americans using British soldiers as target practice.

Americans got a little fed up with a government that refused to represent its “citizens” (read: subjects), and began an armed revolt. George Washington was eventually elected the first President, slavery was eventually abolished, America became a super-power, JFK dated Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton acted inappropriately with a White House intern, and Barack Obama played some golf… Or, as they say: “The rest is history.”

Our glorious nation, in other words, was spun into existence because a bunch of “leaders” (who were located thousands of miles away) decided to impose some arbitrary tax-scheme on a bunch of hard working American families… Good thing government has learned its lesson, right?