This article on cracked.com made my day so I decided to include it in my blog. 😀
It’s easy to say the modern tea-baggers are assholes. The modern tea-baggers are assholes. See? We didn’t even break a sweat.
But as it turns out, these latest tea-baggers are simply carrying on a long-standing tradition of proud, vaguely patriotic douche-baggery that they learned from the OG’s of asshole behaviour; the guys who tossed some tea into a harbour a couple hundred years ago.
No, we’re not saying we wish the British had won the war or that we wish America had never been born. We’re just saying that American history glosses over a lot of true dick behaviour. After all, consider that…
Benjamin Franklin had been chosen by the Pennsylvania colonial legislature to represent the colonies before the crown. If the colonies were pissed, or sick of paying unfair taxes (or as was more often the case, not paying them), it was Franklin’s job to let the crown know.
Unfortunately, Ben really loved the crown. Right before the revolution, he had been trying, unsuccessfully, to convince the king to take back Pennsylvania from the Penn family, and put it under royal control.
When the issue of the Stamp Act first came up, even though the colonists were furious, Ben Franklin was all about it, and he told Great Britain as much. Hell, he even gave a friend of his the cushy job collecting the new taxes.
Because he was fucking clueless about the people he was representing and spent most of his time in Britain. When colonists eventually showed up at his house rioting, he must have been just shocked that they were so angry about the Stamp Act. Or, he would have been shocked, but people were rioting at his house and threatening to hang him, so he kind of had some other stuff to deal with.
When you think about it, Ben Franklin was a terrible choice for Voice of the People. The dude managed to be a rich, successful, self-made, internationally jet-setting playboy in the 18th goddamn century, for fuck’s sake. John Q. Public he was not. Of course he didn’t mind the Stamp Act; if it didn’t at all impede his ability to fuck princesses on hot air balloons, (or whatever the 18th Century analogue to the mile high club was), why should he care? Franklin’s hypothetical balloon-humping to one side, the point is that Great Britain was blissfully unaware on the other side of the ocean while the colonists steamed and let their rage build.
When we think of the original Tea Party Guys, we think of a bunch of decent, hardworking people who were treated unfairly and had every right to rebel against their oppressors. That’s sort of a harder pill to swallow when it turns out the “oppressors” were more like “laid back goons,” and the “opressees” were more like “whiney assholes.” True, Great Britain did impose taxes on the colonies without representation, but according to Taxation in Colonial America, the British rarely bothered collecting them. Hardly anyone was paying the tax that the colonists were so pissed off about.
Smuggling mixed with some general bad leadership. London was an ocean away and there just wasn’t an efficient way to manage an entire empire across seas. Not to mention the smuggling.Lord, the smuggling. The British taxes were only on trade, and it was just ridiculously easy to get away with simply not paying them. This was because the layout of the Virginia coast allowed merchants to sail past the authorities and just pull their boats right up to their customers. As a result, many merchants built their businesses on smuggling.
The British tried to put a stop to this, but how could they? Imagine if, instead of just losing a portion of your paycheck to taxes every month, you had to literally hand money over to an IRS agent who wouldn’t chase you, didn’t keep record of you and was incredibly easy to sidestep. Would you pay that guy?
Great Britain understood this inefficient system, but they also understood that they didn’t reallyneed the taxes they were asking for. So unofficially, it was decided that as long as the colonies were doing well, the British were just going to loosely enforce the trade laws, lest they risk accidentally starting a rebellion. This is the same discipline philosophy held by parents who think that the point of having children is so that you can finally be invited to high school parties.
When it eventually did become necessary to start collecting cash, the British were never able to successfully put and keep in place any taxes, ever again. Every time they tried, a group of colonists would throw the kind of shit fit that ends in some embarrassed step-dad having to buy a pony.
So why bother?
Say you have a friend, who’s kind of a loud-mouth. He’s a few years younger than you and infinitely more irritating, so much so that he pissed off some tougher, bigger kids. Now they want to kick his ass. Even though it’s your friend’s own fault, and even though you had nothing to do with the dispute, you still feel like you have to step in and fight on his behalf. The French and Indian War was sort of like that, except Great Britain was the older, sensible friend of the idiot colonists, and the French “bullies” knew a shitload of Indians.
The land known as the Ohio Country was perfect for fur trading. The French realized this, so they claimed it. The British colony of Virginia claimed it “second,” which is English for first. Great Britain didn’t care too much and France wasn’t terribly interested in putting up a big fight over what clearly must have just been a misunderstanding. The colonists were, objectively, wrong. To apologize for the misunderstanding, the Virginian colonists started sprinting to the territory in order to gobble up land, take advantage of the fur trade, and annoy the living crap out of the Native Americans.
The French, hilariously thinking this conflict was still in the “words” phase, sent a bunch of troops on a peace mission into the forest to see if absolutely anyone in Virginia was in charge (nope!) A nearby colonial militia spotted the French, and being young, dumb, and full of guns, they thought it’d be real neat to sneak up and yell “SURPRISE!” With their guns.
Now, the French are fine if you’re running around saying “Nuh uh, we own the land,” but if you start wrecking their shit? They’re going to have something to say which, in this case, involved recruiting a buttload of Indians and an even bigger buttload of bullets. Regardless of the outcome, the ensuing French and Indian war ended up being ridiculously expensive for the British who, remember, didn’t even really give a crap to begin with.
On top of this, the British colonial smugglers continued to sell stuff to the French illegally throughout the course of the war. This kept the French well-supplied and the British well-supplied with rage at the colonists who, (once again), refused to pay taxes.
Here’s maybe the most blatant display of colonial bullshit, because this is where everything starts coming together. Remember that expensive war the colonists dragged Britain into? Great Britain thought it was only fair that the colonists share some of that cost, especially since the victory showed more benefit to the colonists than it did Great Britain. That’s reasonable. To cover this cost, GB tried throwing in some more taxes, which is also reasonable. As you’ll recall, though, the colonists hated paying reasonable taxes, so all of the new taxes, (except the tax on tea), were repealed.
We can’t even conceive of a government repealing taxes based solely on us not wanting to pay them, because that’s all taxes, but Great Britain pulled out. Just like that. Just to make the colonists happy, (those sonsabitches loved their tea), Great Britain came up with the Tea Act of 1773, which would give the colonists tea that was both cheaper and better than the tea they were getting from smugglers. Still sounds reasonable. France is out of the colonists’s hair, some taxes are removed, and they get high quality tea at a cheaper cost.
The colonists threw the tea in the water.
It worked like this: the East India Trading Company was being driven into the ditch by colonial smugglers, and they only had one asset left that could save them: tea. So, Britain gave them an exclusive deal to sell their high quality tea cheaply to the colonists. Then, the British bundled it with a smaller import tax. Yes, it was like having to buy every Wii bundled with a copy of Let’s Lotion Stuff 2, but the whole damn thing would only be 25 dollars, so it sounded like a fair compromise. Britain just wanted the Tea Tax in there to a) show they still were running shit at least a little bit and b) discourage people from illegally buy low-grade crap from smugglers.
Smugglers, like John Hancock, hate being told they can’t smuggle. Their businesses were metaphorically dependant on everybody remaining horrified by Great Britain’s terrible, (reasonable), awful, (in retrospect economically responsible) taxation practices, so they started a smear campaign in New York and Pennsylvania, painting the Tea Act as just a sneaky way to get everyone to accept new taxes. By this point, “new taxes”, while vital to paying down the still-a-massive-problem national debt, was a phrase now capable of making the colonists go apeshit like it was the fucking secret word on Pee-Wee’s playhouse.
“THEY’RE TAKIN’ OUR TEA!”
And in this case, the secret word demanded that some motherfuckers better get their tea-dump on.
Riots, pamphlets and one Tea Party later, all done to help level the playing field for tea smugglers who were not about to let quality goods get in the way of their incredibly shortsighted business model.
To be fair to the asshole teabaggers, there were a few legitimate reasons to hate Great Britain but, to be fair to history, the colonists didn’t really choose any of those reasons. They picked greed and bigotry.
In 1774, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, which did two big things: 1) it provided religious toleration and rights to Catholics and 2) it expanded Quebec’s land in Canada down to the Ohio River, away from the colonists (who, remember, stole it from the French in the first place). Basically, it was like a big fruit basket from the British to Catholic French Canada with a card that read “Sorry we conquered you; maybe in time you will learn to love us?”
At this point, even after the Boston Tea Party, Massachusetts was the only colony that was really on board with the whole independence idea. Massachusetts, that is, and people like Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry, who invested a lot of money in the Ohio territory and didn’t exactly want to sit back and let the British give it to the stupid French and Indians, so they could ruin it with hairy armpits and crepe teepees. They were outraged and felt oppressed, sure, but they were still the minority at the time. They needed to convince the mostly king-loyal public that these laws were meant to oppress them silly, and they weren’t going to do that with the whole “I put all my eggs in the ‘Ohio Country’ basket and am personally screwed if this goes tits up” argument, so they decided to tap into the old English standard: frothing, belligerent Catholic hating.
Except for one problem: people didn’t really hate Catholics anymore. But they definitely had it in them to hate anything that they thought was ruining the Land O’ Opportunity, and the founding fathers totally played into it.
“Are you just going to sit there and let the goddamned Catholics eat all your babies?”
Alexander Hamilton argued that Quebec would become an irresistible magnet for Catholics who would then destroy the colonies, which is really about a drink away from just coming out and saying that Quebec is a self-arming death-ray that shoots popes. Paul Revere drew a cartoon showing the writers of the Quebec Act in cahoots with the Devil, and the Catholics for being one bishop short of Captain Planet:
It might not seem like a lot, but it was enough to enrage the colonists. Predictably, the British were pretty confused that THIS is what got the masses to turn against. But considering how much of a complicated clusterfuck the issues between the colonies and Great Britain had already been, it makes perfect sense that it would take something as simple as the 18th century equivalent of THEY TOOK OUR JAHBS.