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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why Not the County Commission?

If a fire fee (tax) is imposed on all people in Pocahontas County, let it be by our elected representatives not the Marlinton Town Council.

The Tea Party was a grass-roots movement -- with an element of AstroTurf. What moved Bostonians to activism? Ideology certainly played a role. But so did political leadership, particularly on the part of the Sons of Liberty, Adams, and Boston's merchant class.
It bears repeating that the colonists were not objecting to the financial burden of the tea tax. Or any other tax, for that matter. Instead, they were making a point about political legitimacy. They were more than willing to pay taxes imposed by their own representatives. But they were utterly unwilling to pay taxes imposed by Parliament -- a more or less alien power, given the lack of colonial representation.
Historian T.H. Breen recently made that point in an article for The Washington Post. Even after the Tea Party, he noted, colonists in Massachusetts continued to pay taxes originally levied by the Crown. But instead of sending the money to British authorities, they gave it to one of their own leaders. "Anyone who misses this point risks missing the fact that ordinary American patriots accepted the legitimate burdens of supporting a government in which they enjoyed genuine representation," wrote Breen.
But if complaints about taxation without representation were necessary to the Tea Party, they were not sufficient. Leadership proved pivotal in mobilizing mass action against the East India Company and British authority. Many of those organizing the Tea Party -- and it was a highly organized event -- were drawn from Boston's mercantile class. The same class, as it happened, that stood to lose the most if the East India Company were to get its monopoly. Popular complaints about taxation were genuine, historian Arthur Meier Schlesinger observed in 1917, but they were "the flowering, not the roots, of the tree that had been carefully planted and nourished by the beneficiaries of the existing business order."2
As it played out, the Tea Party itself was certainly a mass protest. While led by a small cadre of activists, it was carried out by a much larger crowd. Among those boarding the ships were not just the invited leaders -- who donned the famous Indian outfits -- but perhaps a hundred spontaneous volunteers, who smeared ash on their faces to approximate a disguise. Perhaps a thousand more Bostonians lined the wharf as spectators, forestalling intervention by British authorities. All these participants were integral to the event.
But for all its mass involvement, the Tea Party was hardly a mob action. It was instead a carefully managed (if not entirely scripted) episode of civil disobedience.

1 comment:

  1. At Tuesday's meeting, after pointing out that the proposal is taxation without representation and utterly unlawful, I suggested two lawful and moral alternatives to the Council's tyrannical proposal: One, that the fire district be expanded, and run by representatives elected by the whole district liable to the tax, who would then have lawful authority to impose a tax. Two, that the County Commission be lobbied to impose a new tax to fund Emergency Serviced County-wide. I am unable to understand how even such educated, upright, and well-intentioned men as Mayor Sam prefer not to remember the lesson of the American Revolution. Perhaps Americans are tired of independence, and wish to be subjects again.


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A local archivist who specializes in all things Pocahontas County