Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
The history of the original tea party in Boston has largely been misunderstood and erroneously serves as a symbol of today's Tea Party. The original tea party was not about the fight against raising taxes. Rather, it was about the fight against the relationship between the British government and influential corporations.
Many members of the British Parliament of that time owned stock in the East India Company. The company was a substantial source of cash for the few stockholders and the British government. Americans loved tea so the British government also enriched itself by adding duties to tea imports into America. The duties became so large as to cut the consumption of tea in America and that hurt the profits of the East India Company and its stockholders.
The East India Company petitioned the British government to cut the duties because they had seventeen million pounds of tea sitting in British warehouses. However, Lord North refused to cut the duties because he believed a cut would be interpreted by the colonists as a sign of British weakness.
Instead, the Parliament passed a new law, the Tea Act of 1773 which gave the East India Company a monopoly in America. Rather than help consumers, Parliament chose to destroy many small- and medium-sized American tea wholesalers and retailers and protect the corporate interests of the East India Company. The problem was made worse because the Parliament made Governor Hutchinson of Masachusetss and British Loyalist Richard Clarke (whose daughter married into the Hutchinson family) exclusive tea rights in Massachusetts.
Several years earlier, Hutchinson and his brother-in-law had sent a packet of letters to England encouraging the British government to cut personal freedoms in America and eliminating self-government in America from the “the hands of the populace...by degrees”. Benjamin Franklin got possession of these letters and released them to Sam Adams.
Please understand, Sam Adams was not the caricature you may see on the beer labels. He was a master of propaganda, disruption of democratic town hall meetings, and mob violence. He extorted merchants to finance his operations since Adams was a poor businessman with a long history of mismangement and failure.
Nonetheless, with the passage of the Tea Act, the government/corporate cronyism, the elimination of the era's “Main Street” tea merchants, and rising sentiment against government protectionism of the East India Company, John Hancock took control of the revolutionary movement, eliminated violent tactics to generate greater citizen support. Adams' gave in to the peaceful tactics because he knew his continued violence would destroy the American independence movement.
So, the truth is that the early sparks of American independence were fanned into flames of revolution and democracy – not by violence, misinformation, and taxes – but rather the peaceful expansion and support of a receptive, informed, and engaged citizenry. The fight was not against an increase in taxes but, rather, against the blurred lines of government and corporate power, cronyism, and excessive profiteering at the expense of the people.
The struggle during the early years of the American revolution is the same struggle Americans experience today. It wasn't violence that toppled the British, it was an informed populace that realized the injustices and, in essence, said, “No more.” When the British were non-responsive to the peaceful demands, public sentiment grew into the Revolutionary War.
The mission of the Coffee Party USA today also seeks to inform the people, engage them, and get them peacefully involved with the actions of our government. The beauty of the design of the American system of government is that, when enough people are involved, the government must respond to the will of the people. The injustices are the same but the potential peaceful power of the people is far greater when mobilized.
Join the Coffee Party USA and be part of the new revolution.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” - Theodore Roosevelt
“Those who reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it”. - Thomas Paine