This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The Boston Tea Party

To understand how economic and politics motives are combine, confused, interpreted, and re-interpreted, we can look at the Boston Tea Party.

We have but one first-hand account of the event, published in 1834 under the title: A retrospect of the Boston tea-party, with a memoir of George R. T. Hewes, a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in Boston harbour in 1773. It is a lengthy title for such a small work. It centers on the life and witness of one George Hewes, whose account of the events is recorded by historian James Hawkes. The most significant corrective that this account provides is an economic one, for the act itself was a protest against what was perceived to be an unjust tax—there is no doubt about that—but what needs to be added to the picture is that, in addition to the government responsible for imposing the tax, there was also another party in the affair. Keep in mind that the men who “drowned the tea” were not destroying the property of England, but that of a massive corporation called the East India Company.

The East India Company had a government-reinforced monopoly on tea being imported to the colonies (importation from other sources had been deemed illegal). However, when the revolt against the tea tax began, the result was an effective boycott of East India tea, since the refusal of the colonies to pay the tax amounted to a refusal to buy English tea (the East India Company’s tea was stockpiled in England and then shipped through vendors to the colonies). As a result of this boycott, tea began to pile up in the East India Company’s warehouses, and in fact threatened the general welfare of the company.

In the meantime, Dutch tea was being imported illegally (smuggled) into the colonies. This had been an ongoing problem for both the East India Company and the English government because it obviously short-circuited the monopoly of the former and avoided the taxation of the latter. In short, it defeated the corporate-state collusion that had formed to the benefit of both at the expense of the colonists.

Until this point there had been a six pence per pound duty on exports from England to the colonies, and a three pence duty on introduction to the colonies. This made the smuggled tea impossible to beat from a pricing standpoint. Remember also that the tea was normally distributed amongst smaller private vendors and was not exported directly to the colonies by corporate ships.

To solve the problem, the company petitioned the English government and a deal was struck that would allow the East India Company to undercut the “smugglers” of the Dutch product while also asserting the right of England to tax the colonies, thus re-establishing the collusion.

According to Hewes:

The company…received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America, and to introduce it there on paying a duty of three pence.

Hence it was no longer the small vessels of private merchants, who went to vend tea for their own account in the ports of the colonies, but, on the contrary, ships of an enormous burthen, that transported immense quantities of this commodity, which, by the aid of the public authority, might, as they supposed, easily be landed, and amassed in suitable magazines. Accordingly the company sent to its agents at Boston, New- York, and Philadelphia, six hundred chests of tea, and a proportionate number to Charleston, and other maritime cities of the American continent. The colonies were now arrived at the decisive moment when they must cast the dye, and determine their course in regard to parliamentary taxes.

For, as has been observed in a preceding page, if the tea was permitted to be landed, it would be sold and the duty consequently must have been paid. It was therefore resolved to exert every effort to prevent the landing.

This new measure would also, in practice, work against the smaller vendors by virtually excluding them from the picture, since it would allow the East India Company to ship directly to their agents in the colonies. And so Hewes remarks that the colonists were receiving petitions from small business owners in England due to,

“…jealousy at the opportunity offered the East India Company, to make immense profits to their prejudice. These opposers of the measure in England wrote therefore to America, encouraging a strenuous resistance.”

And so while it is obvious that “taxation without representation” was a the factor in the event, it is equally true that this is a drastic oversimplification of the problem. As evidenced from the common ground between English business owners and the colonists, we can say that the protest was not simply against a “tax,” but was against what we’d call today a “corporate tax loophole.” The protagonists in the story are the colonists, to be sure, but included are also the small business owners of England, and the would-be entrepreneurs who had taken to smuggling the Dutch product. The antagonists? A marriage of greed between the crown and a corporation seeking to monopolize a market for their exclusive benefit.

All of this matters because it provides evidence for a renewed perspective on the various issues at stake during the Revolution: on this particular point, regarding the Boston Tea Party, we can see that it was instigated by Sam Adams and his hooligans, the Sons of Liberty, but motivated by an unjust collusion between corporation and state, arranged to benefit those two powerful parties while exploiting everyone else. While we have been taught to imagine it as an example of overreach, typical among monarchs and proving the necessity of democracy, it was actually an example of what happens when economic interests are allowed to become so powerful that they are able to dictate foreign policy. So far from being a problem typical of monarchy, this is rather a problem typical of economic Liberalism, that is to say, capitalism. This also shows us how little things have changed, and how far even “Tea Partiers” are from the motivations of the Boston Tea Party. Today America is acknowledged as the “Corporate State” par excellence, the home of Walmart, McDonalds, and where it is illegal to buy milk from the farmer down the street. We swallow all of this (literally) and complain about government taxes, never once complaining of the plutocracy (for the aristocracy of Liberal regimes is always a plutocracy) responsible for writing the laws. In short, the enemy was the king, but he was a king of the Liberal era, when money dictates politics, and when kings became the pawns of economic interests. The Ancien Regime, which the Revolution is construed to have vanquished, was already dead—what the colonists deposed was its corpse.

For America, politics is nothing other than corrupt economics, and this was true even before it has a political identity of its own. This is typically the result of weak political structures in the presence of a powerful economic interests. The economic factors predominate and determine political development. In other words, America is not constituted as a political order but rather an economic order, and political battles take place on the grounds of finance and for financial stakes, for reasons known first and foremost to the financiers in control of trade.

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