As an Irishman who tried (and failed) to legally move to your country for over 15 years, it’s very easy to create a fairytale image of how American’s will celebrate this Independence Day.
I can imagine being surrounded by family and friends outside, watching our favorite teams playing baseball as the white smoke fills the air from grilling burgers and hot dogs as the condensation runs down our favorite beverage. After we enjoy some ice-cream, we will go watch an amazing fireworks display while proudly waving our American flags. The image of being a proud American! Who would not want to be part of that celebration?
As an outsider, I often wonder how many Americans today truly know what they are celebrating. How many actually appreciate everything your founders risked so y’all could have the opportunities you do today? I have witnessed them be attacked as dumb, unprincipled, nothing special and people who had wooden teeth. The truth is they were the exact opposite and they inspire me every day.
Today I want to share with you the events that sparked your revolution and shaped your nation. They began all the way back in 1651…
On October 9, 1651, Great Britain passed the Navigation Act. This policy was enacted with one purpose – to ensure all trade directly benefited England. The elite of the day decided it was best practice for their exports to exceed their imports and the surplus invested in the military. It banned any trade from “foreign lands” and any colonies under British control could only trade with Englishmen on English vessels and from English fisheries. As you can imagine, this made the colonists very angry and it directly affected the tobacco trade in Virginia and the fishing trade in New England.
Fast forward to March 1733. The Great Britain elite passed a law called the Molasses Act. This law added a 6 pence (about $4 in today’s money) tax to every gallon of non-English molasses which was used to make rum. This was to counter the influx of the French West Indies trade and make the English rum cheaper.
What was the end result? American colonists have always had a rebellious streak. They stood up to tyrants, did not comply, and rarely paid the tax. They also started a “new” industry – the molasses smuggling industry.
(Side note: This is one of the many reasons I have always admired the American people – you never just lie down and comply with rules. You are a fiercely independent people.)
By the 1760s, the King is really unhappy with the Colonists and their actions. It’s time they accepted his rules and get in line like other nations within the Empire.
The other fact that is critical to remember is that around this time England was involved in a long and expensive war, and the King needed to raise funds to ensure
he kept his standard of living the British won the war.
The Stamp Act
On November 1, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. All printed material must be done on stamped paper purchased with British currency. The justification behind this “tax” is something you may have heard before. America needed to pay its “fair share”. The narrative was British troops protected America from invasion. The truth on the ground was the American colonists never really feared an invasion from France during the war. This act led to the popular saying, “No taxation without representation”.
The Townshend Acts
During 1767, Charles Townshend was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He worked to pass a series of laws that would later be called the Townshend Acts. They sought to bring the colonists into line, but the result was they added gasoline to an already inflamed situation. These Acts also laid the groundwork for what we know today as the Bill of Rights.
1. New York Restraining Act
It started on June 5, 1767 and the target was New York. Parliament banned the NY assembly or the governor from passing any new laws until they complied with the Quartering Act. This act ensured America paid for food for the English troops stationed there and also provided them housing.
2. The Revenue Act
On June 26, 1767, another law was passed which raised the taxes on items such as glass, lead, colors, and paper. This also increased the power for customs officials to enforce laws, ensure taxes were paid, and to heavily punish smugglers. Officials were given the power to issue “general warrants” to search private property if they suspected you of smuggling.
3. The Indemnity Act
On June 29, 1767, the Indemnity Act was approved. This was a law with the sole function of saving a company called the East India Tea Company, which was about to fail. England would import products like tea, repackage them and export to the colonies for a higher price. As you can imagine, having England as the “middle man” made their products more expensive. At the time, Dutch tea was very popular with the colonists because it was cheaper. It also came with the added advantage of no funding to the King. This law removed the import tax added to English tea which made their tea cheaper than the Dutch tea.
4. Commissioners of Custom Act
June 29th must have been one crazy day in parliament because they also passed the Commissioners of Customs Act. One wonders if working for a tyrannical regime ever gets tiring.
This law created a new customs board based in Boston and put other commissioners in five other ports down the east coast. They were given more powers to enforce the King’s laws and regulations, but they also had a new motive. INCREASE REVENUE. This led to more heated conflicts between your colonists and the Crown and would eventually lead to the Boston Massacre.
5. Vice Admiralty Court Act
The last of the Acts passed on July 6, 1768 and is arguably the most tyrannical. It was called the “Vice-Admiralty Court Act”. It created new courts in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston and gave extreme new powers to officials.
– The decision was solely by a judge so no trial by jury.
– The Crown was rewarded a bonus of 5% of any fine levied so there was an incentive to find you guilty.
– If you were accused, you had to travel to court at your own expense.
– If you no-showed, you were guilty by default
The passing of each of these laws added repeated injury to the colonists. It is because of these violations of their rights that colonists boarded a ship in Boston, and threw 342 chests of tea overboard in 1773.
As tensions grew and with the colonists struggling to be heard by the King, your Founders set up the Continental Congress in 1774. Their job was to coordinate the resistance to Britain. This Congress would later appoint George Washington as the leader of the Continental Army.
The King was growing ever more furious with the rebellious colonists and worked even harder to crush you. The King acted similarly to the political elite of today – they see themselves as superior to us, and we need to be controlled for our own good.
The King sent 700 troops into America with a special mission – crush this rebellion by capturing those against him and destroy any supplies they had. This led to an event we now call “the shot heard around the world”.
On April 19th in 1775, the British moved in on a Lexington & Concord base. Thanks to the efforts of patriots like Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott, the rebels knew the attack was coming and were able to hold out.
After countless battles and further attacks on the colonists’ liberty, your Founders led by Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that changed the course of human history. On July 2, 1776, twelve of the thirteen colonies (New York delegates did not have the power to vote) voted for Independence. They approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.
These are the events that led to your revolution. It has become cool to mock the Founders. My hope is that you will use the facts contained in this article to highlight the tyranny your Founders fought and overcame. My hope is that you will understand and appreciate your founding documents a more – because they did not happen by accident. My hope is if you consider the many issues above, you will see the clear groundwork laid for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:
– Why your founders set up a system of government called federalism,
– Why they wanted all legislative power in Congress but their scope to be extremely limited (A1, S8),
– Why they wanted the figurehead of government (President) to have no real power,
– What inspired the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments in your Bill of Rights.
Your Founders were amazing men who risked everything for the opportunity of freedom. Along the way, they turned tyranny into something that would change the world – the idea that is America.