Monday, May 13, 2013

"Desperate Sons" by Les Standiford (2012)

Author Les Standiford carefully examines the relationship between the Stamp Act of 1765, which was passed in March of that year by Parliament, with implementation taking pace in November of the same year. Of course the colonies were furious with this new form of taxation. During the months leading to the actual Landing of the Stamps here in America, citizens from Boston to South Carolina were in a foul mood over this latest economic burden, proposed by a government thousands of miles away.

Today’s Tea Partiers claim to be revolutionary, but in reality, they are merely unhappy with their representatives. Unlike the original Tea Party activists in Boston, today’s activists have the opportunity to vote for their elected officials. Our forefathers did not have that luxury.

When the British ships did arrive with the cargo of Tax Stamps, they were not allowed to unload them. And when they did, they were not allowed to distribute them. On October 22, 1765 the ship Edward, carrying the stamps for the colonies arrived off the Narrows in Brooklyn, site of today’s Verazzano Narrows Bridge, and anchored. Without a military escort of British man of wars, it was too risky to attempt to move the stamps ashore at the Battery in Manhattan.

Outraged citizens, from Boston to Charleston, raised Liberty Trees, Liberty Oaks, and in New York the Liberty Pole, which was the mast from a burnt ship, was the rallying point for the colonists on the Commons in lower Manhattan. When the British hacked one down, another took its place. The people even burned the house of the Mayor and Governor, driving them to seek refuge in Fort George. This was New York’s version of the Tea Party that would take place several years later in Boston.

The Stamp Act served as a cohesive force which united the colonies in a way that had never occurred before. With all of the colonies being adversely affected by the onerous new taxes, which included legal documents, nine of the 13 colonies banded together and petitioned the King for redress. Of course, all they received for that effort were the Townshend Acts.

The Crown, reasoning that the colonists were unhappy with being taxed for the things they were making here on their own, decided to tax imported materials only, while not allowing the colonies to place any export taxes on the goods coming from America. The main point of both the Stamp Act, as well as the Townshend Acts, was to have the colonies pay an inordinate share of the costs for the maintenance of the colonies, as well as the spiraling expense of Britain’s war with France.

A fascinating book which takes a close look at the gross inequities which fostered a revolution; Mr. Standiford has written a unique perspective on a portion of our history which may even have relevance to the social and economic inequities of the present day.

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