2nd American Revolution: A series

in #news6 years ago (edited)

You can never go far back enough to find the most similar historical case to your own. Humans CAN learn from mistakes, and they typically overweight the most recent mistakes. This is why no one was really willing to buy internet stocks in the Great Recession of 2009, bc they were looking backwards at the LAST problem (the Great Internet Bubble of 1999/2000) and trying to "learn a lesson" that was actually the wrong lesson. In fact, internet stocks like Google, Amazon, Apple and Netflix were EXACTLY what investors SHOULD have been buying when all ships sunk with the lowering tides in 2009. We think history has siblings, and our current period will match with SOMETHING in the past, but what? Our experience tells us history is only repeated when enough time has gone by such that no living human retains the history lesson anymore. Perhaps the American Revolution is too well known to be repeated? Perhaps we must go back to English Civil Wars, or even further to internal uprisings inside the mighty Roman or Egyptian Empires. Our guess is that the farther we go back the more similar today's worldwide situation will be. But we don't have access (by the very effect we're pointing out-- history only repeats when the history is no longer available for consumption) to Egyptian economic conditions anymore, and even Roman conditions are much harder to find than the English Empire's economic history. But we have to start somewhere, and more recent events, if you count 1767 recent, is where we shall embark.
In our search, we turn our attention in this "English Empire" series to looking up particular pieces of history which might shed some light on current happenings in the world. Today we take a quick look at the Townshend Acts from the "Georgian Era" (Any George, Any George will do: "Any Glenn will do"-- Mikey, Swingers) of the English Empire.

The Townshend Acts, per wikipedia, are thought of logically as the combination of the following acts:
1767: Revenue Act
1767: Indemnity Act
1767: Commissioners of Customs Act
1768: Vice Admiralty Court Act

Some history before our history:

Great Britain had already been trying to raise revenues to help pay for the war against the French from 1754 to 1763. The American colonies call this war "The French & Indian War". George Washington fought in this war, it was English colonials plus British Redcoat support vs the French plus the indigenous American "Injuns" now known as Native Americans. In the UK & France (the "Continent") this same war was known as the Seven Years War, and the colonial aspect was but a mere theatre within the overall war. But the result was SUPPOSEDLY quite favorable for British colonialists bc it gave them a bunch of "free" land to the west to cultivate, but was it really? Assuming there were any sweet fishing holes or fur-trapping zones west of the colonies, there'd be French subjects already "on it". Do you think a war between nobles was going to get a French guy to move away from his sweet house loaded with game, fishing, and fur pelts in Ohio or Quebec or Louisiana? So did the colonials really gain anything from this war? Maybe LONG term. But for the colonials of 1763-1772, NO, not really. Shit, they STILL speak some hackneyed French in New Orleans (later to be sold to the Americans) and that city was sold 200 years ago. But that's what rich ignorant people in London would've said,

"you ungrateful Colonials need to pay your fair share for this war which mainly benefited YOU bc we gave you rights to the wilderness west of the Appalachians"-- 1%-ers in London who think beaver pelts are made out of thin air in a factory in Scotland

"Thanks for nuthin bro, that French guy living on that land which you're supposedly giving me is armed to the gills and has the personality of the Soup Nazi, go pay for your own war"-- Colonials.

You don't think that's how it went down? History is written by writers who get paid to write history by Kings and Generals and Mercantilists. Do you think they go interview Joe Sixpack living in the frontier town of Pittsburgh, dealing with angry Frenchmen on the Ohio River? History, since man could put chisel to stone, has been written from a King's perspective. Higher-ups aren't on the ground, much like a Vietnam War general managing the war from a Virginia barracks, so their errors stem from not understanding the true situation. When they think of Ohio or Quebec, they think of a two-dimensonal map with Xs and Os on it. Kinda like YOU watching NBA basketball, you're saying "how'd he miss THAT shot?" bc you haven't ran a mile in a player's shoes to realize his heart is beating about 190 beats per minute when he took that free-throw. You take your fat ass to the local gym, crank in 4 in a row with heart-rate at around 60, and declare the Cleveland Cavaliers should hire YOU to make shots instead of George Hill. Yeah, like that, only with REAL shit on the line.

Back to the point, a 7 year war spanning half the globe would be expensive in modern times, but imagine all that carried out in the age of slow sailing ships and armies on foot? EXPENSIVE. Londoners don't wish to pay for anything either, find someone else to pay for it. So Britian did, they started trying to raise revenues aggressively. Their post-7-Years-War taxation attempts were different than the crap they pulled in the past tho; namely, the 1733 Molasses Act which was really British Protectionism for their favored company cronies (like East India Company) in disguise. This time, London was calling for MONEY.

Punitive tariffs can be worked-around using the black market and some clever smuggling, but the tax man on your lawn with extra powers and British soldiers behind him is harder to avoid. Colonials were ALREADY anti-England starting with this Molasses Act shenanigans, so being asked to pay for a bunch of barren underpopulated land loaded with hostile Injuns and French Soup Nazi frontiersmen was not looked-upon favorably. This Seven Years War ended in 1762, but the bill was now due. In 1764 the British National Debt was 130 million pounds, up from 75mm before the war. Back then, that was a big stinkin deal bc governments couldn't just print paper/electronic money like they all do now to run massive deficits. This bill was coming out of someone's ass. You see, if you don't pay your debts, back then, you automatically lose the NEXT war bc no one will lend you the money to wage it. Even the Mad King understood the power of the Iron Bank.

What about the SUGAR Act, sugar?

More history before the history.
The 1764 Sugar Act & the 1765 Stamp Act were the first ones to get passed to raise revenues from the British Colonies. While the Stamp Act was repealed almost as fast as it was declared (you simply don't attack writers man, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword and THAT should be evident by the massive quanitities of propaganda you're reading these days), the Sugar Act aimed directly at New England rum merchants was the true beginning of Boston-area's hatred for the British. Both of these acts were repealed by 1766, and the Sugar Act was replaced by the Revenue Act of 1766. All these Acts, dating back to the old original, the Molasses Act of 1733, had all failed in their missions. They didn't hamper Colonial businesses against their British rivals, and they weren't able to effectively collect revenues for the war debt. So now what to do? Enter Charles Townshend, circa 1767.

Enter the Townshend Acts

Charles Townshend was a clever man, he realized the previous Acts were unsuccessful and came to the brilliant conclusion that taxing stuff MADE an ocean away from his tax-collecting mitts was too easily smuggled-around. So how to raise money? Tax the shit the BRITISH were manufacturing and exporting to the colonies, and have your Colonies-based reps in Boston, Newport, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc... meet the damn boat at port to inspect the loads and tax the local city merchants who come to buy it wholesale. Let's picture it two ways, ok?

Molasses/Sugar Acts tax collection: Scenario 1

Most profitable damn thing in the late 1600s and early 1700s? Rum, New England-made Rum. How's it made? With a byproduct of sugar which is most commonly used to increase the flavor of tea in the average UK parlor. So the sugar of the West Indies (where it's still made today) gets sent to the UK for their tea habit, but what can you do with all the left-over Molasses from the refining process? Dump it? Nah, loc, you sell it on the cheap to the empty slaver ships who didn't get the sugar-hauling contracts, and those ships take it to New England where it's used to ferment into Rum. Rum is a WONDERFUL product, it gets you drunk and most of all it boils out everything except high concentration of alcholo formerly known as sugar. It's like storing an acre of sugarcane plants in a 250 mL bottle! You can use it as currency in the Colonies bc it takes up so little space vs the amount of effort required to make it. It's concentrated wealth, in other words. In the colonies, "making change" was no easy task, as they were using several bastard currencies including the Spanish "dolare", the British Pound, and just about any specie (metals) on which they could get their hands. If you couldn't find any specie, rum sure made a great bartering chip, and it's easy to transport. But lets say you're a wiseguy in London trying to collect a Molasses Tax? How do you do it? You could send a rep to the West Indies where it's exported or to the colonies where it's imported. But you don't know any of the locals, niether the guys selling the molasses nor the guys transporting it are local Londoners who wouldn't be caught dead in English Society violating tax rules. Niether the people of the West Indies or Colonies gave a crap about English Society, that was weeks away in a dodgy boat. So the West Indies sellers dodged the tax man, and the shippers simply picked different pick-up and drop-off sport where tax collectors weren't. Ever see the coast line of Rhode Island? There's a reason it became the center of Rum trade in after 1733. Literally every piece of land in Rhode Island is a makeshift island, peninsula or harbor ideal for smuggling. Good LUCK collecting those taxes! So how about scenario #2, the Townshend taxes?

Townshend Acts tax collecting: Scenario 2

A very established merchant in London society wishes to keep his social status within London, and if you're known as a tax cheat that don't go over so well. So these dudes "abide" by the laws of England.

There's certain goods the colonies don't make, bc either it's too processed for them to make or English factories have made them too cheap to compete even with shipping across an ocean. Glass, lead, paints, paper and tea are all things which were traditionally exported by high-falutins of London society to the colonials. So how to collect the taxes-- from COLONIALS? Shit, the exporter is a London citizen, he's already taxed and his daughter plays "golf" with the King's daughter, he's not paying anything and already PAYS his own taxes. Plus, taxing the exporter would defeat the purpose of extracting money from the colonies. So you gotta pay on the receiving end. You simply tax the stuff the colonies don't make, thus you station your tax collectors at the main harbors of all the major cities, and have them greet the royal British exporters ships loaded with stuff. Inventory the stuff, then sit on the dock collecting a fee from every Boston/Philadelphia/Baltimore/Newport store owner looking to stock his shelves with British tea (no wonder Americans are a nation of coffee drinkers! Pepperidge Farm remembers British mother fuckers!). You think that royal exporter whose daughter "jousts" with the King is going to do shady Rhode Island smuggling harbor deals to offload some tea or glass?? Shee-it. These guys wore wigs for crissakes! Tax collection began in earnest, right at the damn harbor.

Do you remember where the Boston Tea Party Rebellion took place? On a tea ship, prior to unloading and selling the tea. The royal exporter guy was with his Boston strumpet in a hotel while his ship was locked & guarded-- until the next day when the tax collector and he would sit in the port office making small transactions with all the local-yocal Boston storefront owners. This time he never got the chance and was fucked while he was fucked.

Now that we've flashed forward, a tad, to the end-result (Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party-- the Revolution) let's get into some nitty gritties about some of these Townshend Acts.

Revenue Act

This was the straight up tax on imported goods from England. You buy English exports, you pay at the port of call tax collector's office which is a seat right next to the selling royal exporter. But there's more, the Revenue Act gave extraordinary powers to tax collectors; now they were able to get easy search warrants to inspect incoming ships. Privacy Shmivacy! (ring a bell?) Not only searching ships, but houses and businesses too. There would be a new powerful sheriff in town. Familiar with giving local authorities a bit too much power and how they abuse it? yeah, that.
Not popular.

Indemnity Act

This is where Townshend got pretty clever. You see, Americans were buying cheaper Dutch imported tea, to avoid paying the taxes on British teas which made them more expensive. How to get around this? England stopped taxing incoming Dutch tea to England. This allowed English merchants (golfing buddies with the King and Townshend) to buy the Dutch tea cheaper than the colonies could get it, and then import it from England to Boston at same competitive rates as the Dutch could import it. This made the Dutch "end-around" more problematic for the tax-avoiding colonials.

But it gets worse. A central tennant to the Townshend Taxes is for what purpose he used the tax revenues. Nah, not war bond paydowns like originally intended. He realized he needed to change how tax collectors and arbitraters of those tax disputes were paid. If you try some guy for smuggling and the judge and jury are those benefitting from the smuggling, he gets off with a wrist slap and a stern warning. After all, the courts were ruled by men who golfed with the smuggler, not London court members. The judges were paid by the colonies, not British government coffers! So by paying the arbitrators in the colonies with British money, they turned the incentives around. NOW the judges would rule in favor of Mother England and her purse, not the colonies' smuggler army. Clever, right? FURTHERMORE, Townshend realized that it's only painful to get a population to pay a tax the FIRST TIME. After you get people to accept a tax, you can always raise it later! Townshend himself used this argument when members of Parliament put up resistance to the EXTREMELY low rates of taxation (1% on Molasses!) which wouldn't do "dick" in raising any real money. You thought government wasn't clever did you? They see you coming after making a few mistakes, and they begin thinking ahead. "We'll tax the FUCK out of those colonial bastards once we get a taxation beach-head"-- probably heard in the outside halls of Parliament. But cleverness goes both ways, do you think the colonies didn't figure this out or hear whispers of Townshend's true plans for the future?

The Commissioners of Customs Act

This was just the act that set up the tax collectors as mini-fifedoms in the Colonies. Imagine some dick in your town that taxes all the rich local people and then bandies-about society like a fat drunk asshole, making private back-room deals with one merchant while shunning another. Power man, it corrupts. Needless to say, these physical port offices were where a lot of the scuffles took place.

"Boston Massacre"? Right in front of the Boston office, the office requested British troops in the first place, and were directing the military action. Sometimes these tax collector Hitlers, sometimes they'd make meat helmets. Just kidding, but seriously they sometimes just made shit up and then took the ship's goods for their own, giving local arbitrators a piece of the booty (by this law's writ). Too much power man. Know who they pissed off good? John Fucking Hancock man, they took his whole goddam ship and confiscated it! Think Hancock was boiling mad? Ever see how big he signed his death-warrant on the Declaration of Independence. He was madder than a Trump hater billionaire in Sillycon Valley. MAD.

Vice Admiralty Court Act

Previously there was one court to try these taxation avoidance cases, Nova Scotia. Too far. So they created more local offices in Boston, Philly, and Charleston SC. Drink too much and harass Cowboys fans inside the stadium? They process your ass right inside the stadium while the game is still happening-- IN STADIUM COURTS! Same thing Britain did to the rowdy New England colonials. Quick justice. No room for letting a guy bandy-about town debating whether to move to Florida while his Nova Scotian court date is scheduled. The Dude WILL abide, says one of the George kings.

Who cares?

How did the colonials take to Mother Britain implementing hard-nosed taxation solutions?
Some irked and specifically-targetted colonials like Hancock and George Washington organized and boycotted British goods, but it didn't work bc times were good! Rich colonials looking to flash their luxury around would buy British-made goods anyway. When times are good, no one gives a damn about tiny little taxes.

But skirmishes and court battles were happening by 1768, one year after passage of Townshend's new laws, when the British Navy entered Boston harbor to enforce the laws directly. This is actually how Hancock lost his ship, bc HMS 50-cannon Romney (leave it to the Mormons to escalate) was in town and the "inspector" who writted himself onto ol' John Hancock's ship decided to make up a few "violations" to steal-confiscate all Hancock's shit. Handcock's fight with authority plus each high profile court battle and bloody confrontation (like 1770's Boston Massacre which also tied back directly to Commissioners of Customs Office in Boston) led to cooler heads prevailing; namely, lawyer John Adams was the cooler head. He tried to see both sides, and did this well for awhile. But then something happened which always happens to derail the peace--> a recession began.

The Panic of 1772 changed everything for both the mothership England as well as her baby cub the Colonies.

Similarities to today? There's some, but we'll leave that for next article.
Should we write about the Panic of 1772 next, or explore/compare the similarities of this Townshend Acts story to the present?

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