Minus The Nemesis
A Collaboration of Some of the Finest Thought on Today's World


Monday, July 03, 2006
Today is 2 July 2006. It was 230-years ago today that the Second Continental Congress decided that this nation should be free. Before fully being able to explain why Independence Day means what it means, it is important to travel back a bit farther. While many of the causes of the Revolutionary War were going on at the same time, I will try and provide a bit of substance on each as I have researched them.

America's birth can be stemmed from many earlier times, but I think that the gathering of the Stamp Act Congress is a good place to start in relation to independence, as we know it today. It is important to note that without mentioning the French-Indian War beginning in 1754 or the various Acts imposed by British Parliament is to not mention American independence at all. With a mere thought of relative autonomy the North American Colonies of Great Britain were to be faced with a series of levies that seem to have no other course of action but that of revolution against the Crown.

*Note: This is a rather long entry so please click "Read More!" to read the whole thing.

Probably first to mention would be that of the Navigation Acts originally brought forth in 1651. This was essentially born of mercantilism (basically a system in which wealth is to be increased by restriction rather than a free market) and imposed trade regulations and restricted foreign shipping. Four acts (still under the Navigation Acts) between 1662 and 1773 imposed even more taxes and regulations on the colonies. Rightly so, they weren't too happy about it. This leads up to the Molasses Act of 1733, which imposed large taxes on sugar from the French West Indies to the American colonies. Because of this large tax the colonists could no longer afford the cheaper sugar and were forced to buy the more expensive sugar from the British West Indies. Smart move, or so the British thought. The British ended up spending more time curtailing smuggling of cheaper sugar than they benefited by the Molasses Act. This may be the beginning of dissent that contributed to the American Revolution. Shortly thereafter in 1764, the Sugar Act was passed by Greenville. This was merely a revisiting of the earlier Molasses Act of 1733. Because of Acts like these, a rallying cry of the American people prior to and during the American Revolution became, "No taxation without representation" (thanks Jonathan Mayhew). A slightly different take on the phrase attributed to John Otis declares, "Taxation without representation is tyranny". Either way, there have been many references to the overall sentiment since that time. It was the feeling of the American colonists that it was unfair that they had to pay taxes to the King but had no representatives in Parliament. A leading dissenter to such Acts was none other than Samuel Adams. Although he didn't quite get the following that he hoped for in relation to the Sugar Act, this initial outcry largely helped him gain followers in protesting the Stamp Act of 1765.

Prior to the Stamp Act of 1765, there were three other Stamp Acts, all levying taxes on the colonists. The protests came to a head in 1765 when the Stamp Act of the same year was enacted by Parliament. Colonists weren't big fans of the taxes (which basically covered everything printed) and the Stamp Act of 1765 was never really enforced because of it. As a result of the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765, the Stamp Act Congress was formed in 1765. Representatives of nine colonies met in New York. Though some colonies didn't send delegates to the meeting they still agreed to support the actions of Congress. As an outcome of the Stamp Act Congress, the Declaration of Rights and Grievances was drafted and sent to the King and Parliament. This document basically solidified the collective voice of the colonies that they wanted rights and fair ones at that. In the document it was declared that nobody could tax the colonies but the colonists, trial by jury was a right, admiralty courts were bogus, without voting rights Parliament couldn't represent the colonies among others. Tax collector-effigies were hung and burned, actual houses and businesses were ransacked; it was a mess. Colonists actually threatened to tar and feather tax collectors and eventually the tax was repealed in 1766 due to the pressure of the colonies on the Crown. This was another tax and it allowed the colonists to raise questions as to the actual intent of British Parliament; they didn't like it. This Act greatly added to the newly growing separatist movement that was a precursor to the American Revolution. While the colonies gained some ground as a result in that the Act was repealed, regrettably admiralty courts were still held, the Crown rejected the idea that the colonies could tax themselves and they even subjected the colonies to the Townshend Acts, enacted in 1767. These laws were a tax on imports of such things as glass, lead, paper, paint and tea whereas the Stamp Act was an indirect tax. Crafty colonists avoided these taxes by smuggling goods into the colonies. Samuel Adams was at the head of organizing boycotts of the goods and again, the Crown caved into pressure and repealed all of the acts save one; tea.

Also of huge importance is the significance of one Patrick Henry. Henry was a bitter opponent of the Stamp Act of 1765 and was a large organizer of the revolution. Henry is also attributed with the following quotes: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty of give me death!" as well as "If this be treason, make the most of it." It is said that this liberty or death speech may have been responsible for delivering the Virginian Army to the Revolutionary War as they jumped up and shouted: "To Arms! To Arms!" Essentially, Henry was one hell of an orator and classical liberal and people listened fervently. He spoke about personal liberties and the importance of freedoms. This was just what the colonists needed.

It was tough to be a British soldier in the colonies during this time. Because of what their King was doing overseas they had to keep relative order in the colonies as a means to the King's policies. This was no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. They were harassed being physically and verbally assaulted. You would think that it was amazing that the British soldiers could keep their composure in light of all of the harassment, but then you would read about the night of 5 March 1770. On that night, Private Hugh White was on guard at the Customs House on King Street in Boston. A crowd was steadily gathering and harassing the soldier as usual I suppose. He called for help and that brought in nine more soldiers led by Captain Thomas Preston. The harassment continued of course and the soldiers were now being pelted with snowballs. As a result someone (history still can't tell you who) yelled "Fire!" and on that note, the soldiers began firing into the crowd. Three townspeople were killed with eight more being injured (two more died of their injuries later). After the event, the Bostonians demanded that the soldiers be put on trial for murder. Interesting historical fact is that John Adams (cousin of Sam Adams and later President of the United States) was their lawyer; he was more into justice than passion. John Adams stated that it was the people and not the soldiers who were in fault. He won his case and all but two of the soldiers were set free. The remaining two had indeed killed people with their shots and were "branded in the hand" and set free like the others.

British Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773 and it held that the British East India Company could sell tea to the now 13 colonies without the regular colonial taxes. This allowed the British East India Company to effectively undercut the prices that smugglers could get and this angered many a smuggler as quite a few Americans were making a living by smuggling goods into the colonies. Initially intended to save the British East India Company from near economic collapse, the Tea Act didn't add any tax to the tea but was intended to give the Company a monopoly on importing tea to the colonies. Not having say the colonists. They didn't appreciate the government control and it is said that the Sons of Liberty dressed up like Indians and hucked 342 boxes (crates) of tea into Boston Harbor and wrecking the tea-cargo. This Tea Act was yet another Act responsible at least in part for the American Revolution.

Next in the timeline of events is the Boston Port Act of 1774. This act is sometimes referred to as the Coercive Acts, the Intolerable Acts or the Punitive Acts. Basically, this Act was designed to solidify the British government's rule over the American colonies. This was a direct retaliatory Act stemmed from the colonists' actions at the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Port Act sought restitution for damages to the British East India Company and also to the King's treasury. The Act basically shut down Boston Port to any ship, no matter what its business. Slews of additional acts followed, and were basically part of the so-called Intolerable Acts. These included the Administration of Justice Act, which essentially abolished localized administration of justice, the Massachusetts Government Act, which got rid of elections in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and stated that they were to be appointed positions determined by the King, not the colonists, the Quartering Act of 1774 (which was actually a second such act the first being in 1765), aimed to demand that British soldiers were given quarters by colonists first in barracks and then in homes; private homes, the Quebec Act, which worked fine for the Canadians willing to accept governance of the British King around Quebec, but not so well for the colonists. Finally we arrive at a more familiar topic: the First Continental Congress in 1774.

The First Continental Congress in 1774 is a good place to start when speaking of independence. This was also a result of something that the British Crown did that the colonists' didn't think was right. This formation of the Continental Congress was in response to that of the Intolerable Acts of 1774. Thanks to a previous gathering as mentioned above, the Stamp Act Congress, correspondence was set up and kept alive so that persons would know when and where to meet to discuss relevant issues in the futures of the colonies. It was decided to make the place Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Carpenter's Hall because it was centrally located and also one of the more prominent cities of the colonies at the time. They met from 5 September 1774 to 26 October 1774 and during the Congress it was decided that a compact between the colonies was to be made to boycott British goods and also to quit sending Britain their exports (one was tobacco which they liked quite a bit) were the Intolerable Acts not repealed. These documents were called the Articles of Association and were drafted on 20 October 1774. The Articles were basically written grievances of the colonies pitted against the British Crown. Secondly the Articles of Association were also a pact among the colonies aimed at imposing economic sanctions against the Crown in order to pressure a resolution. Some may say that the Articles hastened the Revolution while others say that wasn't the aim at all, but that it was to pressure a resolution without getting rid of ties to Britain. Whatever the end goal, this document was a predecessor to the Declaration of Independence. As a result of the Articles of Association, trade with Britain suffered greatly. Not to be outdone, Parliament passed the New England Restraining Act, which basically barred the northeast colonies from trading with anyone but Britain and the British West Indies. The Act also kept colonial fishing vessels from northern fisheries. At a later time, this same Act was applied to the rest of the colonies. It would seem that Massachusetts had been a problem child for Britain since its inception.

What happens next is as they say, history. Although there may be some interpretation involved as to what sparked the first shots of the Revolution. Some will say that it was the Battle of Point Pleasant while others will say that Lexington and Concord were the beginning. I can't say for sure which is which because I am not that up on my Revolutionary War history! But I can say with some certainty that there was indeed a revolution and for many of the right reasons. With that in mind, the classical liberal forefathers who laid the groundwork for this great nation had the right idea. Not only were they masterful politicians but also gentlemen in many cases; something that seems to have gone by the wayside today. The founding fathers weren't intimidated by some PC nonsense about how you can't say, "so help me God" or "in God we trust" because it might offend someone. They concentrated more on (much like John Adams) justice but with passion to make their cause worthy. In the end, it [liberty and freedom] truly is a worthy cause and worth fighting for.

Richard Henry Lee proposed a document on 7 June 1776, which was to form the core of the Declaration of Independence, and was enacted by the Second Continental Congress and subsequently passed on 2 July 1776; called simply the Lee Resolution. This document declared the thirteen colonies were to be free of British rule. Twelve of the colonies "signed" the document while New York didn't. Enter the Declaration of Independence. It was between 11 June and 28 June 1776 that Thomas Jefferson drafted this defining document; one of Jefferson's "greatest monuments" and evidence of an undying faith and commitment to liberty and freedom from tyranny. It was delivered to the Second Continental Congress and apparently they really tore into it. All in all, eighty-nine items in the original document didn't make the final cut (including the peculiar institution). Jefferson was none too happy not because of the issues apparently, but because that was one hell of a tough document to be able to write! Slavery was saved for another day as it was a recognized problem, but one that they couldn't fix at the time. The time for independence finally came to a vote on 2 July 1776 (yes, it passed) to which John Adams exclaimed on 3 July 1776: "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore."

In the end, 2 July really is the birth of our nation in relation to independence. After a couple more days of "fine tuning" the document, the Declaration of Independence as we know it today was drafted and signed on 4 July 1776. The thought had been brewing since at least 1754 when Britain began charging the colonies for the French-Indian War as well as the sustaining of British troops in the colonies. Not Patriot or the classical liberal stood for such tyranny and did something about it to the benefit of the populace.

*Note: This was intended for delivery on 2 July 2006, but I was a wee bit late in the editing process. The message is still the same and has been for the past 230 years.


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